How did you spend senior prom? For many, prom and graduation are seen as opportunities to let loose and celebrate; however, some socially conscious teens are altering their focus this spring semester towards expanding social consciousness.
Students from across the country are using prom night to send the world a statement about tolerance and acceptance by attending the event as same-sex dates and challenging gender roles through dress.
Two juniors from Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas chose to go to prom together, even though one is straight and the other gay.
Since neither Jacob Lescenski nor his best friend, Anthony Martinez, could find dates, Lescenski asked Martinez to go with him in a proposal that went viral. Despite being nervous about what others may think, Lescenski went forward with his plan with the support of his classmates.
“Jacob has made a huge change in the world somehow,” Martinez said of his friend’s actions.
In Monroe, Louisiana’s Carroll High School, Honor Student Claudetteia Love, 17, almost didn’t attend prom when she learned that the school’s principal wouldn’t let her wear a tuxedo instead of a dress.
Love, who is openly gay, spoke out about her school’s rule and expressed her desire to wear a tuxedo to prom. She received support from classmates who helped her create a petition for change, which was supported by gay rights groups, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as well as her family and members of the community.
After members of the public and The Department of Justice contacted the Monroe City School Board and the school district to discuss Love’s civil rights, the school changed its dress code and apologized to Love.
“The outpouring of support has been incredible and inspiring,” said Love. “It is a source of strength that I will keep with me as I move on the next phase of my education and life beyond high school.”
Like Lescenski and Love, Mareshia Rucker is another courageous teen who took it upon herself to expand her community’s social consciousness.
In 2013, Rucker initiated Wilcox County High School’s first integrated prom in Abbeville, a rural town in Georgia.
Previously, Wilcox County High School put on two proms each year, one for white students, and one for black students, until Rucker and three of her friends decided to make a change.
The four girls gathered support from Abbeville residents and raised enough money to create an event that welcomed all students.
Inspired by the efforts of the students and the community, the school changed its policy and now hosts one integrated prom each year.
Recently, Rucker’s exceptional leadership was honored by The Canadian Museum for Human Rights with a display of the red prom dress she wore in 2013.