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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Sky’s the limit’: Rogers High School seniors get $50K financial lift for prom after GMA announcement

The Rogers High School prom committee holds a giant check outside the school signifying their win in a giveaway by retailer J.C.Penney that gave four high schools $50,000 to make their prom extra special, shown Friday, April 12, 2024, in Spokane, Washington. The kids were posing with the check to record them thanking the company for the gift.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Rogers High School’s senior prom will be extra special this year after a national television announcement Friday featuring the northeast Spokane high school.

Rogers seniors and seniors from three other high schools across the country celebrated Friday morning on Good Morning America when they learned each school would be receiving $50,000, courtesy of JCPenney, to help fund their prom this spring.

Sporting purple and black Rogers apparel, a large group of seniors gathered at the high school to be highlighted on the ABC television show and find out if their school would be selected for the money.

“It was pretty cool actually seeing everyone come together in this one spot super early in the morning,” said Nam Pham, a senior who formerly worked at JCPenney.

Celebrity costume designer Johnny Wujek announced the winners to the screaming delight of seniors at all four schools. Wujek and JCPenney collaborated on a new prom collection at the retailer called “JCProm with Johnny Wujek.”

A fifth school, Wujek’s alma mater in Michigan, was also awarded $50,000.

Students were told they were finalists for an unnamed prom giveaway, but they had no idea what the prize was or that it was from JCPenney.

Pham said the news hadn’t fully sunk in hours later Friday.

“It’s pretty cool to see what we might be able to do with this money or what the plans are,” he said.

Student leadership met Friday with school and JCPenney staff to discuss the possibilities.

Rogers’ senior prom is June 1 at Northern Quest Resort and Casino.

Early indications were that the money could go toward food, prom dresses and suits, salon services and discounts at JCPenney, said Donalda Brantley, senior class president.

Brantley said the money will be a “big relief” for students who might struggle to afford prom items.

“It’s honestly a blessing for us to have, because a lot of us won’t have to worry about a big part of prom, which is money,” she said.

Autumn Wright, a senior who works at JCPenney at NorthTown Mall, said she was excited to receive the financial lift, especially because she and her classmates were nervous they didn’t have enough to have a good prom.

“I just hope everybody is able to have a good time and get the dresses and the suits that they want,” Wright said.

Kathy Kovach, operations supervisor at JCPenney at NorthTown Mall, said several students, like Wright and Pham, work or have worked at that NorthTown JCPenney, which is 1 mile away from Rogers.

“We watch them grow up,” Kovach said. “I mean, they call us their ‘work moms’ and everything.”

She said she and other NorthTown Mall JCPenney supervisors and managers attended Friday’s celebration at Rogers.

“All of us supervisors and managers were there this morning, and half of us were crying,” she said. “We looked down and half the students in the audience that worked or work for us were crying.”

She said she has two grandchildren who go to Rogers, and one of them is a senior. Kovach said the senior said the money will be a huge help.

“Now, the sky’s the limit for them,” Kovach said.

JCPenney will also cover 20 Rogers seniors’ salon needs, like hair styling.

“It’s just a privilege,” Kovach said of the $50,000. “I mean, it has uplifted everyone’s spirits.”

Brantley said she looks forward to spending time with her boyfriend and friends at prom before graduation.

“I just want to have fun and dance and listen to music and eat some good food,” she said.

Wright is also excited.

“I think it’s kind of our last goodbye as a group and all being together and being able to have a good time and not worrying about anything else,” she said.