By Aida Toro
“My foundation is about building self-esteem and empowering these young leaders,” said Lisette Franco about the Gadzuric Foundation. “I want them to leave with much more than a dress.”
The Cinderella Project MKE has been Franco’s annual event since the birth of the Gadzuric Foundation in 2009. The foundation’s objective is to exclude unfavorable barriers distressing today’s youth and their families.
Throughout the years, she has assisted in sending over 1000 girls to prom. As prom is an important time for any high school student, Franco and her team of volunteers strive to relieve some of the costs by providing a free prom dress to the young ladies in the community. Her event consists of volunteers such as “fairy godmothers” who work directly with the prom dress recipients to assist the girls with selecting a dress and letting them know how smart, beautiful and strong they are. There are also workshop presenters, makeup artists, and so much more.
“I find it the most rewarding thing I can do,” said Franco. “I participated in several programs as a teen in my community that allowed me many opportunities that I wouldn't otherwise have been able to experience.”
As Franco is an avid fashion lover because it is a form of self-expression, she tried to create a program that the girls would be interested in and would showcase their individuality as well as help them to build their self-confidence.
“I wanted them to know that regardless of their circumstances, they could shape themselves and their lives to be who and what they want, whatever that is,” she said.
At the Cinderella Project MKE event, Franco and her volunteers host workshops for the young ladies prior to them receiving a dress. The workshops focus on self-esteem building.
“I think that at this time in their life they are making huge decisions that will impact the rest of their life,” she stated. “It’s not just about a dress, but about teaching and reminding them that they are smart, beautiful and strong.”
For 2019, Franco limited the event to 80 girls because she wanted them to have an amazing experience with their "fairy godmother" as well as their workshop presenter. She said presenters are selected based on factors that are important to the foundation.
“We want them to be someone that the girls can relate to, whether it is because of similar struggles, background, or even because they look like them,” said Franco. “I want them to say ‘I want to be like her when I grow up.”
The message Franco wants to send across the globe is that she believes women can do it all. A woman can be glamorous, hard-working, smart and also experience life struggles. They can come from a background where people don't expect much from them but can still surpass expectations.
“We can create a life that we want,” she said. “I truly believe that we get put into a box...if you are a mom you can't be sexy and if you are smart and hardworking you can't have fun. I think we can. I try and find a balance in my life where I can focus on the things that are most important to me, which are my family and my community.”