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For prom invitations, the bigger the better

  • Merrimack Valley High School junior, Kevin Crutchfield asks his girlfriend, sophomore Emily Masse, to prom by changing the sign in front of the school with Principal, Dr. Mike Jette; Thursday, April 4, 2013<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

    Merrimack Valley High School junior, Kevin Crutchfield asks his girlfriend, sophomore Emily Masse, to prom by changing the sign in front of the school with Principal, Dr. Mike Jette; Thursday, April 4, 2013

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

  • Merrimack Valley High School Principal, Dr. Mike Jette, hands junior Kevin Crutchfield the letters to use the sign outside the school to ask  Crutchfield's girlfriend, sophomore Emily Masse to prom; Thursday, April 4, 2013<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

    Merrimack Valley High School Principal, Dr. Mike Jette, hands junior Kevin Crutchfield the letters to use the sign outside the school to ask Crutchfield's girlfriend, sophomore Emily Masse to prom; Thursday, April 4, 2013

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

  • Republican Dan St. Hilaire is running for the Executive Council;  Wednesday, August 4, 2010.<br/><br/>Alexander Cohn/Monitor Staff

    Republican Dan St. Hilaire is running for the Executive Council; Wednesday, August 4, 2010.

    Alexander Cohn/Monitor Staff

  • Merrimack Valley High School junior, Kevin Crutchfield asks his girlfriend, sophomore Emily Masse, to prom by changing the sign in front of the school with Principal, Dr. Mike Jette; Thursday, April 4, 2013<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)
  • Merrimack Valley High School Principal, Dr. Mike Jette, hands junior Kevin Crutchfield the letters to use the sign outside the school to ask  Crutchfield's girlfriend, sophomore Emily Masse to prom; Thursday, April 4, 2013<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)
  • Republican Dan St. Hilaire is running for the Executive Council;  Wednesday, August 4, 2010.<br/><br/>Alexander Cohn/Monitor Staff

When Pembroke Academy senior Emily Connor was called down to Headmaster Michael Reardon’s office several weeks ago, she had no idea what was going on. She had been a few minutes late to a class earlier in the day, but she isn’t the type of student to skip class or get in trouble.

“(Reardon) was like, ‘You managed to stay out of trouble for four years, and now I’m getting emails that you’re skipping class,’ ” Connor recalled. “And I was like, ‘No I haven’t, why is this happening?’ ”

What she also didn’t know was that fellow senior Autrey Gates was watching the whole thing from another office, holding a bouquet of flowers and waiting for his moment. When Reardon handed Connor a detention slip with the word “Prom?” on it, Gates made his entrance.

“Basically I wanted Emily to think she was getting in, like, super trouble and swing it back on her with the prom thing,” Gates said.

He’s just one of many area high school students who came up with creative ways to pop the prom question this year. Some students went for very public declarations, including hanging up signs out front of their schools or asking during schoolwide assemblies. Others went with ideas that put them less in the spotlight but were just as unique, including creating their own fortune cookie messages and writing “Prom?” in tea light candles in a date’s driveway.

Bow High School senior Elias Hatem asked fellow senior Gloria Bibbo, who is on the ski team with him, from the top of Cannon Mountain, where there is a live camera. He and his friends painted a sign asking her to prom and took it to the top of the mountain. Then he called Bibbo and asked her to check something on the website for him.

She said she was confused about why he couldn’t look it up on his own, but she went to the website anyway. When the live camera loaded, she saw Hatem standing there, holding the sign.

“If you do it normally, then there’s nothing that makes it stand out,” Hatem said. “So you’d rather be the memorable one.”

At Merrimack Valley High School, every student who entered the parking lot Friday morning saw sophomore Emily Masse’s invitation from junior Kevin Crutchfield. Thursday evening, Crutchfield and Principal Mike Jette changed the sign at the entrance to the school to say “Emily – Prom? – Kevin.” He posted on Facebook for everyone to keep quiet, without saying what to keep quiet about, so that no one would ruin the surprise if they drove by the school Thursday evening.

“I knew he was going to think of a cute way to ask me. I knew we were going anyway, but I didn’t think it was going to be, like, that big,” Masse said. “But knowing him, you know, I probably should have expected it.”

Soleil Shah, a senior from Bow, knew the way to sophomore Christine Mitchell’s heart was with Chinese food. During lunch, he got her favorite dish from Manyee Restaurant in Concord. Then he went to Rite Aid and bought a pair of tweezers to ply the message out of the fortune cookie and replace it with his own that said “Prom?”

He brought the Chinese food to the cafeteria and had Mitchell open the fortune cookie first. Then she looked in the bag and found flowers and her favorite dish. The two had actually made plans to go to Manyee that night for dinner, but Shah had canceled.

“The art of surprise,” he said.

“It was very Christine,” Mitchell added.

Keenan Foley, a junior at Merrimack Valley, went with a more artistic approach to ask his girlfriend, freshman Rochelle Boucher, to prom. His best friend had already asked her best friend in a creative way, so he knew he had to live up to expectations.

One evening, he got Boucher’s best friend to take her out shopping. When Boucher returned, her driveway was filled with tea light candles spelling out “Prom?”

“She was ecstatic, and everything went well,” Foley said.

At Pembroke Academy, Headmaster Michael Reardon said this year’s senior class is more creative with their invitations than students have been in the past. Senior Allan Gwinn says its because they’re an ambitious and warmhearted group.

He arrived at school at 6:30 on Tuesday morning with a sign asking sophomore Katherin Dodge to prom. He found a janitor to give him a ladder, and he hung the sign over one of the school entrances.

“I decided, hey, I want to wake up early in the morning and as soon as Katherin walks into school I want that sign to be the first thing she sees, so it’s the first thing on her mind all day,” he said.

“I was so surprised when I walked up I just started crying; I was so happy,” Dodge said. She knew she’d be going to prom with Gwinn and had encouraged him to come up with a creative way to ask her, but she wasn’t expecting it that day. “I had no idea what he was going to do so it was a good surprise.”

Here are some of the other ideas students have come up with:

∎ Bow junior Ben Reed covered his car in paper that said “Prom?” in big letters, then called his girlfriend, Aurora Van De Water, down to the main office over the school intercom.

∎ Pembroke senior Brandon Bachelder asked sophomore Maranda Bush during a schoolwide assembly, walking out with flowers as five students held up signs that spelled out “Prom?”

∎ Pembroke junior Spencer Smith also changed the letters on a sign outside of the school to ask Lexi Duclos to be his date.

∎ Eric Ives, a Franklin senior, was asked by his girlfriend who attends Plymouth Regional through fortune cookie messages, with the twist being that she made the fortune cookies herself.

∎ Rebecca Walchak, a Concord student who graduated in January, came home to a path of roses from her driveway up to her bedroom and an invitation hanging around her dog’s neck.

What prompts the students to go above and beyond a simple invitation? They want to make their invitations special and memorable, of course. But once one public invitation is made, the pressure is on for other students, said Connor, who got the fake detention.

“When one person does it, it just catches on,” she said. “And it’s sort of almost competitive.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

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