By Daris Mendez
Ornate masks and elegant dresses filled up the reach of Downs Hall on April 8. With translucent glasses and lounge tables dressed in aqua blue, you would think the elegance followed an event like prom or homecoming.
The purpose, however, was a masquerade charity ball hosted by Kean’s Leadership Institute, aimed to raise funds for 180Turning Lives Around, a New Jersey based nonprofit organization which provides help for families and individuals who have been affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.
The ball was 100 percent student run and supported by numerous donations from restaurants and organizations including Chick- fil-A, Barnes and Nobles, and Gourmet Dining.
Kean’s Leadership Institute was able to raise over $4,000 for the cause, from tickets and collaboration from students, according to KLI member Alyssa Leona in her introduction speech The initial goal of the fundraiser was $3,000.
At the beginning of the evening, guest mingled around lounge tables, many taking pictures or decorating masks.
Students, Taylor Williams and Kimalee Nichol-Ford, from Kean’s Center for Leadership and Service, hosted the night’s activities, which all connected to the idea of bringing awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Kean Dance Theatre (KDT) contributed to itinerary by performing a partnered number while wearing masks.
“My mask represents a friend, an officer, a counselor or even a sibling. It represents someone you feel comfortable enough to talk to about what you are going through and hopefully put it to an end,” echoed the KDT members.
The guest speaker for the night was managing assistant director of Community Standards and Student Conduct, Nicole Rodriquez.
Rodriguez stressed the importance of recognizing domestic violence when it happens and spoke about President Obama’s legislature put in place last March, which requires college campuses to speak about domestic violence.
“We want to make sure that students at Kean University are aware of what domestic violence is and how to recognize it,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez also urged Kean students to check out the program Step Up which is designed to help Kean students recognize domestic violence when in the situation or recognize when a friend is going through it as well.
After dinner was served, guests were shown a short film directed by students tilted, “End the Silence,” which included two different scenarios where there were both a male and female victim of domestic violence.
The film also portrays both the emotional and physical abuse involves in these types of relationships.
Towards the end of the evening, after raffle prizes were given away, Kean students and guests present danced to the various genres of music provided by DJ Nix in the Mix.
One attendee was Blanca Rosa, an education major.
“This event was more than a masquerade ball, it was a learning experience to be more informed about domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Rosa.