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For today’s high school students, ‘promposals’ are de rigueur

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Hundreds of people recently witnessed the proposal of one Grand Forks Red River High School student to a girl he wasn’t even dating.

Shortly after a concert had finished in the performance hall, senior Ben Irvine suddenly strolled onstage, carrying a box of chocolate in one hand. He told the audience he needed to see Sydney Skaro, a friend of his and fellow musician who had just performed in the concert.

“When I got onstage, a couple of his buddies walked on with a white board on wheels that had the words ‘Prom?’ written on it,” Skaro said. “He got on one knee and handed me the chocolate.” 

Skaro is one of several recipients here of a “promposal,” a growing trend among students who ask their date to prom in an exceptionally creative way. Red River students have been bending over backward for their dates in the past few years, and many say they’re trying to out-do their previous efforts.

Students said how you ask is almost more important than the event itself, which this year falls on Saturday.

“It’s just fun and it makes memories for both of you,” said senior Chantz Halverson.

Early planning

Some promposals required a little bit of luck.

Last week, senior Erik Hanson set up a projection screen in the backyard of his girlfriend’s house to play a movie he’d made that asked her to prom. Mimi Yunker’s room upstairs had a window overlooking the backyard, so the plan was to wake her up in the middle of the night and have her look outside.

While she slept, he quickly set up the screen, though he wasn’t worried about her seeing him because he was cloaked in darkness, he said. But she really didn’t want to get out of bed. 

“I called her and woke her up,” he said. “I don’t think the pretty moon outside was that important to her compared to her sleep.”   

Even with Yunker’s mom trying to coax her out of bed while trying to stifle laughter it took a few minutes before the senior appeared at her window.

“It was a pretty easy ‘yes’ for her, I think,” Hanson said. “She and I have been dating for two-and-a-half years now, so it wasn’t that nerve wracking for me.”

Other attempts resembled mini-scavenger hunts. Halverson and his friend, Zack Campbell, together planned for their dates to retrieve gifts at Starbucks, American Eagle and the pet shop.

An acquaintance of Halverson’s acted as a chauffeur and drove the girls to Olive Garden, where Halverson and Campbell awaited with flowers and a card that read, “Now that you know I’m the bomb, will you please go with me to prom?”

“They both said ‘yes,’ and they both thought it was really cute,” he said.

Trying harder

Some students sought to top last year’s efforts. Hanson wasn’t so sure he could, he said.

Last year, he was in California the week before prom, so he’d planned a scavenger hunt for her each day of his absence, with poems that had clues directing her to spots important in their relationship. For the last day, she met him at the final location and he’d asked her to the event, he said.

This year, “she was kind of awestruck that I went as far as I did,” he said. “After last year, she wasn’t expecting something as big.”

Some students just wanted their proposal to be competitive. For instance, senior Ariana Storbakken created a puzzle for boyfriend, sophomore Carson Dennis. Each class hour, he received one piece of the puzzle directing him to find the next one. The completed puzzle read, “Carson, Prom?”

“I just wanted to think of something unique,” she said. “I feel like everyone tries to top each other and I wanted to do that.”

Such grand gestures get immediately captured on social media, which encourages students to up the wow factor. Principal Kris Arason said he thinks the days of simply walking up to a girl and asking her are over.

Doing something unique “is the only way kids get asked to prom these days,” he said.

Some students said they’d seen more than a dozen big proposals this year alone, and many noted that it was a standard that didn’t seem to be going away soon.

“All the girls love the theatrics of it,” Hanson said.

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson is the K-12 education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald.  Contact her if you have any story ideas or tips and visit