At the end of her seven-minute segment on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which aired Friday, the host presented McMillen with a $30,000 college scholarship from Tonic.com. She also received an offer to work as an intern for the Web site in New York City this summer.
For several seconds, McMillen sat silently with a big grin on her face as the audience cheered. The show faded to commercial before returning with another guest.
McMillen appeared on the show to discuss her fight to attend the Itawamba Agricultural High School prom with her girlfriend. The teenager’s efforts became the center of a national controversy when the Itawamba County School District canceled the school’s prom.
The district made its announcement after a letter from the ACLU demanded that it change its prohibition on same-sex prom dates.
Before March 12, McMillen had never been on an airplane. She’s now flown to New York and Los Angeles in the same week. She’s been featured on the “CBS Early Show” and the “Joy Behar Show” and in People magazine, to name a few.
Chris Hampton, who works with the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, said she has never seen an issue generate this much buzz. A Facebook page that the ACLU created a week ago about McMillen’s fight to attend prom, has more than 360,000 fans.
“There is no way you can make this kind of reaction happen,” Hampton said. “This wouldn’t have been nearly as big of a story if the school hadn’t canceled the prom.”
McMillen couldn’t be reached for comment Friday night about her plans for the scholarship. She has previously said she would attend Itawamba Community College after graduating high school. McMillen said she has a 3.86 grade point average.
Before announcing the scholarship, DeGeneres told McMillen that her show had considered throwing a prom for her.
McMillen said she just wanted to go to her school’s prom.
“I just want to go and be able to be myself and go to the prom I was supposed to have since I’ve known what prom was,” McMillen said on the show.
A U.S. District Court judge could demand that the school still hold that prom. Senior Judge Glen Davidson will rule on an injunction filed by the ACLU that would prevent the district from canceling its prom. Davidson will hear the legal issues Monday at 10 a.m. in Aberdeen. Also on Monday, students will learn more about a banquet that IAHS parents have organized.
The Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition also is working out plans to hold a Second Chance prom that will be for all high school students in Mississippi.
That prom will be designed to provide a safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, but straight students also will be invited. The prom may be held in Tupelo.
McMillen’s father, Michael McMillen, who works as a nurse in Tupelo, was also featured on the Ellen show.
Tonic.com says its focus is on “the good news that happens each day all around the world.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or firstname.lastname@example.org.