On Tuesday, Feb. 18, former first lady Michelle Obama posted a throwback photo of her 1982 prom night on social media, complete with a polka-dotted pink satin dress. But Obama wasn't just reminiscing about her high school experience — she was throwing it back to her prom for an important reason. What's Michelle Obama's prom challenge? She's launching a voting campaign that might just get you a free prom celebration for your school.
According to the former FLOTUS' Instagram caption, the contest is pretty simple. Students or teachers simply need to share what their schools are doing to get more students registered to vote, and they'll be entered for a chance to win $5,000 toward their school's prom. The 2020 Prom Challenge landing page has a link to an authorization form for a school official like a teacher to fill out, and an application form to share your best voter-registration ideas. Per the site, the main purpose of the competition is "to celebrate and recognize 20 high schools across the country integrating voter registration into their schools in the most creative and impactful ways."
According to her caption, Obama created the 2020 prom challenge in partnership with MTV and When We All Vote — a voting initiative she helped launch back in 2018 — to encourage more young people to vote. Brands like Rent the Runway are also providing support to make the prom challenge a success. Applications are accepted until midnight on March 13, so better move fast.
In her Instagram post, Obama encouraged her followers to raise awareness about the prom challenge by posting photos of their proms. Some of Obama's fellow When We All Vote co-chairs, including Tracee Ellis Ross and Kerry Washington, acted accordingly and posted their own prom night throwbacks to spread the word about the prom challenge.
"Prom was fun, but my 1st time voting was life changing," Ross wrote in her caption — and that's the real premise of the prom challenge. 2020 is a pivotal year for elections on all levels of the ballot, and Obama has spent her post-White House years encouraging young people to become more civically engaged. When she first co-launched When We All Vote in 2018, Obama made it clear that her goal was much bigger than supporting any particular party or candidate in an election. Instead, her main focus was and still is getting young people registered to vote, especially those that are about to turn 18.
Prom is an important moment for high school students — and according to Obama, voting should be, too. All across the country, youth activists have been encouraging their peers to get more involved in electoral politics, so that they can have a real say in the elected officials that represent them. Whether you want to throw a prom night party or an election party, Obama's got you covered.