Filling out financial forms is not what you would typically think sparks creativity among teenagers.
But first lady Michelle Obama’s did just that with a video contest challenging high schools to document their successful efforts to get students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School in Chicago won the competition with a video structured like the television show, “Scandal,” highlighting the school’s efforts to get more students to complete the FAFSA.
What worked at the school? To encourage seniors to tackle what many see as a complicated process, the school counselors held a contest among themselves to get the most students they were responsible for to finish the applications. Once students completed the FAFSA, they could submit their names in a raffle for free prom tickets. There was even an incentive for students to bring in friends to the counseling office who hadn’t finished the financial aid process.
On June 9, Michelle Obama spoke at King College Prep’s graduation ceremony—the prize for producing the best video. At the event, the first lady showed a video that featured Kerry Washington and the other stars of “Scandal” congratulating the seniors.
Her remarks included mention of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who had attended King College, marched in President Obama’s inauguration parade, and was shot to death two years ago on Chicago’s South Side. Born and raised on in the area, Ms. Obama said adversity has tested the school’s students more and earlier in life than many other young people, but she encouraged them to overcome the challenges they face to fulfill their dreams.
The video contest was part of the White House’s Reach Higher Initiative aimed at getting more students into and through some form of postsecondary training.
A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.