Students Win $5,000 Scholarships with Quirky Duct Tape Prom Outfits

If you know any high school seniors nervous about paying for college next fall, today would be a good time to have them look at duct tape for financial aid.

Duct tape?

Yes, you can add “Helping Pay for College” to the infinite list of things the multipurpose sticky tape is good for around your house.

Duck Brand, the company that manufactures Duck Tape brand duct tape, promotes a “Stuck at Prom” scholarship contest every year for high school couples or single participants who design, sew and wear their prom attire. Each grand prize winner and their school receives a $5,000 scholarship.

There is one catch: The prom attire must be made of Duck Tape!

“I had seen news stories about duct tape clothing, so I was really excited about doing this,” said Ashton Woolen, who teamed with Caden Kluge as the grand prize winners in the 2013 contest. “And winning $5,000 for anything definitely makes it worthwhile. I thought it was great.”

“It definitely makes the senior prom experience a little different,” added Caden, who used 120 rolls of duct tape to sew the winning Victorian era outfits together. “Wearing a duct tape outfit to a prom makes you stand out and get a lot of attention, but the $5,000 definitely makes it worth it.”

Couple wearing prom dress and tuxedo made of duct tape

The path to any prom can be a sticky one, but this project created even more unusual moments than you’d expect. Caden estimates she spent about 250 hours working on it her senior year at Sequoyah High School, in Dunwoody, Ga. She didn’t finish the dress until 3 a.m. on the day of the prom.

“My first piece of advice is: Make sure you have a lot of time,” Caden said.

Some of the other issues they had to unravel include:

  • Every senior at Sequoyah has to submit what Caden called a “monumental project” in order to graduate. Designing, sewing and wearing a prom outfit made from duct tape was an unusual submission. The $5,000 scholarship award made approval easy.
  • Age was an issue. Ashton was 20 at the time he agreed to participate. Contest rules said you had to be under 21 at prom time. He turned 21 just three weeks after prom. Crisis averted.
  • Caden and Ashton are neighbors, but never dated. Ashton volunteered to serve as the model for the tuxedo fitting and attend prom as a friend. A few months later, Caden started dating another senior, Ben Fullerton, and a whole series of complicated issues resulted from having two dates to prom.

All parties ended up at the prom.

“It was a logistical nightmare that could have gone completely wrong,” Caden said. “Fortunately, everyone was really excited about seeing how the dress and tuxedo turned out and Ashton and Ben were so good about it that everything turned out great.

“In fact, it went so well that I even got up enough confidence to go out and dance, which never goes well, but it did that night.”

Caden and Ashton have immediate plans for the $5,000 scholarship each receives.

She enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta this fall. Caden estimates the bill will be about $60,000 for tuition, room, board, books, etc. Her $5,000 will be applied toward meeting those bills.

“Some of the money I was getting in financial aid was for loans and now I’ve got a chance to pay those down before they accrue too much interest,” she said.

Ashton spent a good part of his $5,000 almost immediately, buying a digital video camera that he’ll use for school work at Chattahoochee Tech, just outside Atlanta.

“It essentially gave me five grand to spend on something I never expected to be able to buy,” Ashton said. “No way was a camera this good going to be in my budget for at least another four or five years. This really helps push my career ahead of where I thought I’d be, so I’d definitely tell anybody who’s a senior: Go for it!”

Author

Bill Fay
Staff Writer

Bill Fay is a journalism veteran with a nearly four-decade career in reporting and writing for daily newspapers, magazines and public officials. His focus at Debt.org is on frugal living, veterans' finances, retirement and tax advice. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

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