Reya Pal: Class of 2020

written by Eshaan Mani, HFM Kid Ambassador

Born when the world was grieving the 9/11 terror attacks in New York, and graduating as the world struggles through a pandemic as never experienced before, this year’s graduating class across the nation is a resilient one ready to take on the world.  

Their graduation ceremonies have been canceled or postponed, as are several events leading up to the big day, including prom. Houston Family Magazine had the chance to speak with Reya Pal, Elkins High School senior in Sugar Land, who even designed her own prom dress. Her prom was unfortunately called off due to the coronavirus outbreak. Her mother, Tanya Pal, shared on social media that her daughter had been planning this out since the fall of 2019. “Conceptualizing her dress, drawing it out, shopping and pricing the right dress, finding the lace and other embellishments, and finally starting the execution of her design in January after all her college applications were in”. 

Reya discussed the journey of creating her dress, the challenges she faced, how the coronavirus and subsequent cancellation of senior prom affected her, and the life lessons she learned from both designing her prom dress and the coronavirus outbreak.

Reya was really excited for prom. But, surfing the internet, she noticed that the dresses she liked the most were far too expensive, hitting prices near $400. In October 2019, Reya struck gold; she found a plain teal satin dress for $60. But then, in December, one of her friends bought the exact same dress! 

Then, she remembered that her mom had designed her own prom dress back in the day, and that was her spark of inspiration. “I customized that $60 dress with fabrics and patterns. I looked through a bunch of floral designs and found the ones I liked the most. I cut the golden lace fabric into the patterns and sewed them to the dress. I also added rhinestones as a final flourish. It did challenge my patience and perseverance though.”

By the end of January, Reya had gathered all the materials she needed and planned to put the dress together from February through Spring Break. In the first week of March, several Houston-area Independent School Districts, extended spring break due to concerns of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Reya wasn’t deterred; she saw the silver lining of the situation: she had more time to design her dress!

“All of us [the students] expected a big shutdown, as soon as the virus hit. But I doubt any of us thought it would last this long. We thought we’d be back to school before prom.”

But surely enough, one by one, all of the events leading up to Reya’s high school graduation were canceled. “I’m definitely disappointed…we work hard for three and a half years for the last half of our senior year. That’s the semester when we get to have fun, work is light, hanging out with friends to seal high school memories, and there are lots of fun events. But now… not so much.” 

Pal’s prom dress project was not futile though. She had a FaceTime prom party with her friends to make up for the lost event. Besides getting better at sewing and celebrating virtually, Reya learned many valuable life lessons through the journey. She says she learned to plan further ahead and follow through with those plans.  And she also learned to be nicer to herself when her plans or designs didn’t work out. Designing the dress over months taught her that patience is important in life. After the coronavirus took with it all of the major events of her last semester in high school, she learned to appreciate opportunities and events more and to not take anything for granted. And perhaps most importantly, this journey gave her a story to tell for years to come, just like her mom. 

I enjoyed speaking with talented Reya Pal and was impressed with her positive attitude, maturity, and outlook. COVID-19 is not strong enough to silence Reya or dent her passion and perseverance. And her dress is gorgeous!

A special shout-out to all high school seniors from Houston Family Magazine: We know that you’ve worked hard throughout their high school career, and deserve to celebrate this great milestone. Congratulations to every one of you and we wish you all the best as you start the next phase of your lives.

If you know a senior with a story to share, please email us at