Senior class makes history at Ohio high school, electing two girls prom king and queen

The roots of the senior prom date back to the 19th century, at a time when colleges were separated by gender. The prom—short for promenade—was an opportunity for young men and young ladies to meet and mingle at a formal party. The idea moved to younger ages in the 1920s and evolved into the modern-day prom, complete with tuxedos, limousines, over-the-top "promposals," and, of course, the infamous prom "court."

The fact that students are still being asked to vote among their peers for a "king" and a "queen" of the prom is somewhat baffling. The idea felt outdated when I was in high school decades ago. Am I missing something, or is it really just a glorified popularity contest where the naturally outgoing and beautiful among the student body get the privilege of winning a prize that has no real meaning or significance?

Traditions are odd things when you step back and look at them objectively. Many people aren't able to do that, which is why there's so often an uproar when traditions get broken or messed with in some way. But not all traditions are worth keeping—or at least worth being precious about.


That's the lesson for an Ohio community whose senior class voted in two girls as prom king and queen this year. The couple, Annie and Riley, were chosen by their peers at Kings High School to wear the crowns and carry the titles—a choice that was brought up and discussed at a local school board meeting.

At least one parent at the school board meeting expressed concern over having a girl serve as prom king, but others were supportive.

"I admire this generation for their thirst of knowledge and understanding, their strength to stand up for what they believe in," said one parent.

"Sorry, but I believe that there are still two genders, a male and a female," said another.

The decision, however, was the students' to make, not the parents'.

"This is solely a Kings High School senior class nominated and voted-on initiative," Dawn Goulding, a community relations coordinator for the school district, told WLKY News.

The school shared a photo of the girls on their Facebook page with no extra fanfare—just a simple message of congratulations. "Congratulations to Kings High School 2021 Prom King and Queen, Annie Wise and Riley Loudermilk! #KingsStrong." Though there was a mix of comments on the post at first, they grew more supportive.

"The queen and king that were nominated and won were thrilled, they were so excited and they feel so supported at school, Gould told Fox 19 News. "What is great is it shows a lot of the character of our students at Kings High School. They're inclusive and they get it."

The Facebook post now has more than 2,000 comments, most of which are words of celebration and support for the students.

Let's just step back a second. For parents to raise a fuss about a prom court in any way shape or form is just silly. "But a king is by definition a male! But the point is to have a boy and a girl!" It's a prom court, for the love. It means nothing in the big scheme of things, regardless of who wears those crowns.

The students of Kings High managed to at least give it some fleeting meaning, using an archaic prom tradition to make a statement of solidarity and an expression of inclusivity. And the school district has stood by the students as they've endured criticism from certain parents and community members.

The students have spoken, and what they've said is, "We're turning traditions on their heads and celebrating our friends just as they are." Seems like a fitting coming-of-age milestone for young adults heading into an increasingly diverse world.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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