Website Tonic, Ellen Give $30,000 to Gay Teen Banned From Prom
March 20, 2010
(ChattahBox)—The Itawamba County School District in Northern Mississippi made headlines last week when it canceled a school’s prom due to “distractions,” rather then allow a same-sex couple to attend. Student Constance McMillen, 18, is gay and she wanted to attend the prom with her girlfriend, while dressed in a tuxedo. The school said no and when the ACLU contacted school officials to inform them they were violating the First Amendment, by refusing to allow gay couples to participate in the prom, the school responded by promptly canceling the event.
Now, an anonymous donor through the Web site Tonic, with the help of Ellen DeGeneres, has donated a $30,000 college scholarship gift to McMillen. And McMillen will also get to attend a prom after all, courtesy of the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, with financial help from Tonic.
The ACLU is now suing the school, but the small Mississippi town is not ashamed of its bigotry. Mayor Paul Walker of Fulton Miss. supported the actions of the school district. “I think the community as a whole is probably in support of the school district,” said Walker.
When Pankaj Shah, the founder of Tonic read of McMillen’s plight, he joined with a friend to do something about it. His friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, offered to join with Tonic in raising money to fund a prom for McMillen and the other students of Itawamba Agricultural High School. The donor pledged to match, dollar for dollar, the first $25,000 raised for the prom. Any money left over, after a prom was paid for would go towards a scholarship.
Shah was inspired by McMilen’s courage in standing up for something she believed in:
“First, do you remember being 18? It’s scary enough thinking about school, college, life, sex, drugs, parents and everything else that stresses kids out. This angel, Constance, is dealing with all that and decided to fight for what she believes in on a very public, national stage. If nothing else, Constance is a reminder of courage, love and determination wrapped up in a human spirit that hopefully will set an example for others in similar situations.”
The response to McMillien’s story was so successful, that Tonic, its readers and the unnamed donor were able to present McMillen with $30,000 for college, during her appearance on the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
While on the show, McMillen told her story, saying that many of the students in her school were blaming her for the canceled prom. Ellen commended her bravery in speaking out, noting that its easier to take the path of least resistance. “It’s always easy to be quiet, especially when you know somebody might tell you ‘no’ or it’s going to cause a scene,” said DeGeneres.
The site Tonic.com is described as “a digital media company dedicated to promoting the good that happens each day around the world.” Tonic has also offered the teen a summer internship with the company.
Photo Source: the Ellen Degeneres Show