POCOMOKE, Md. - New hashtags surface on social media every day, but one Maryland high school hopes theirs will have the power to get First Lady Michelle Obama’s attention. Students and staff at Pocomoke High School in Worcester County flooded social media Friday with posts containing the hashtag #WeWantFLOTUS, in hopes of convincing Mrs. Obama to pay them a visit.
Pocomoke, Md. is 154 miles – or about three hours-- away from the White House, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Principal Annette Wallace came up with the idea for the #WeWantFLOTUS hashtag campaign, and this isn’t the first time they’ve done something similar. Last year, they started a #WeWantCal hashtag to try and get Cal Ripken Jr. to visit them—and in January, he did!
Wallace told FOX 5 by phone on Friday that the school focuses a lot on teaching their kids about digital responsibility and digital citizenship training. They see it as a big opportunity for students to learn about something they will definitely use after high school-- and because a lot can go wrong if students use social media the wrong way.
The staff creates a list of digital responsibility lessons they teach through their homeroom classes. And Wallace says since the best way to teach the students how to do something is to actually do something right and involve them, hashtag campaigns like these are a perfect vehicle.
But why Michelle Obama? Well, there’s more to Pocomoke’s story. Wallace explained that the staff started their own program called Project 100, with the goal of getting 100 percent of their students to have a plan for continuing their education beyond high school by the time they graduate. It’s especially important, Wallace said, because of their roughly 330 total students, about 70 percent live in poverty. Many graduates, she said, are first-generation college students.
Wallace said they think the Project 100 initiative ties in perfectly with the First Lady’s #BetterMakeRoom campaign to get kids focused on higher education. So, #WeWantFLOTUS was born, and they kicked it off at the end of a pep rally Friday honoring one of their coaches who is battling cancer. The students all held up photos of Michelle Obama, and chanted “We Want FLOTUS!” and then, of course, posted those videos on Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat.
Pocomoke’s Project 100 takes a unique approach not seen in many public schools around the country. It’s a program with a focus on commitment, and that couldn’t be clearer than at their end of the school year “Intent Night.” Wallace describes the event as being much like a Signing Day for athletes who declare where they are going to play sports in college.
Wearing their graduation gowns, each student declares their intent in front of their class, their families and their community. They sign a contract that indicates their intent to keep their commitment, and is in line with the lessons they've learned at Pocomoke. Whether they choose to continue on to college, the military, or to enter the work force, they will have a dedicated plan for their future.
This year's Intent Night is May 24, 2016. Wallace said they would love to have the First Lady as their guest speaker that night, but they are really open to a visit from FLOTUS any time. Their first guest speaker was former Maryland State Superintendent Dr. Lillian Lowery.
Wallace said she thinks Project 100 is a way to show off something special about the kids, and give them a chance to feel important. She says Intent Night is an incredible part of it for the kids, giving them each of them a moment in the spotlight.