Hanford high school students could get the prom of their dreams, thanks to a new contest.

Hanford is in the running for an all-expenses-paid prom through a contest held by High School Nation, an organization that holds school assemblies all over the nation, including Hanford, to celebrate the arts. The events include live music, activities and more.

“This is a fantastic deal for our students,” said Hanford High School Principal Scott Pickle. “For [High School Nation] to do this is a great thing.”

During a recent assembly for the high schools at the Neighbor Bowl, the principals were invited to come up on the stage and dance in front of their students. If one did, they would be entered into the free prom contest.

Since the local prom is shared by all three schools each year, all students would benefit.

“I took one for the team and went up there,” Pickle said. “I was nervous to do it but I did it for the students.”

Pickle danced with the school mascot, the Bulldog, to the song "Shut Up and Dance" by Walk the Moon. Hanford is one of 10 schools up for the free prom. Twenty-five schools were originally entered in the contest. The only other local school competing is Tulare Union High School.

People can vote for their school through the High School Nation website, highschoolnation.org, once a day through June 25. 

The school with the largest number of votes will win the contest. The winner will be announced soon after the voting closes next month.

Jimmy Cantillon, founder of High School Nation, said this is the first year the organization is offering the contest.

“We always try to create new opportunities to expand what we’re already doing with the schools,” he said. “We thought it would be really fun to help schools with something they usually struggle with, and someone brought up prom. Since proms are all about students dancing, we thought we could get principals to earn it by dancing.”

Cantillon said they chose the finalists based on creativity, how much effort the principals put into it and the response they got from students.

“We tried to pick schools in which the administration showed that they care about their kids and that they really wanted to do this for them,” he said.

For the Hanford Joint Union High School District, saving money on a joint prom would be a huge benefit. Joy Santos, activities director for Hanford High, said the prom can cost up to $10,000 to put on, depending on venue, entertainment and other considerations.

“This is great for the city of Hanford,” she said. “I hope we get the community’s backing and get people out there to vote. I think we have a great chance of winning.”

Cantillon agrees. He said Hanford is already in the top three based on the volume of votes they’ve received so far.

Santos said the school is helping spread the word about the voting through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as email.

If Hanford does end up getting the free prom, Pickle believes it could be bigger than previous years. He expects the prom would include live entertainment, as that is what the organization is known for. In recent proms, the schools could only afford getting a DJ.

“I think the prom would definitely exceed what our expectations would be,” he said. “Their performers are top notch.”

A committee of juniors from each of the schools is responsible for overseeing the prom and begins planning out the next year’s prom in September.

“They really do a lot of work to put these things together,” he said. “It’s a big deal. It would be nice if all we have to do is pick the date. It would be a tremendous gift.”

Cantillon said High School Nation will work with the winning school’s prom committee to plan the event.

“We want them to be involved in the process and get their feedback,” he said.

Cantillon said High School Nation wants to make it the biggest prom the school has ever seen, including celebrity guest appearances and special giveaways. If it’s successful, he would like to see it become a permanent part of their program.

“I hope to see it grow so we could pick five schools from around the country instead of just one,” he said.

In the end, Pickle said what’s most important is that students have a safe experience.

“We want students to have the opportunity for a high school memory that’s safe and fun,” he said. “We want our prom to be a place where they can come, enjoy themselves and stay safe. If we can do that, that’s a successful night.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2429 or jluiz@hanfordsentinel.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @JosephL_HS.

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