Going to prom is a rite of passage for most teenagers, although attending such events doesn’t often come cheap. Indeed, in 2017 Grandville High School in west Michigan was charging $40 per person for admission to its ball. However, Allan Milton wasn’t about to let a lack of funds stop him from attending the dance – and he had quite the crafty plan to raise some cash, too.
Allan has been diagnosed as having autism – a developmental disorder that typically affects social skills and the ability to communicate. As a consequence of his condition, the 18-year-old therefore regularly attended special classes at school to aid his studies. But while Allan and his peers with autism weren’t being stopped from receiving a good education, they were at risk of missing out on one key part of the high school experience.
You see, nobody in Allan’s classes had ever been to prom. And perhaps because of that, the senior took part in a scheme that would help himself and his fellow students attend the end-of-year festivities. That endeavor, moreover, involved a pursuit at which Allan was particularly skilled.
In fact, one of Allan’s teachers, Dan Jakubowski, had noticed the rare talent his student had for drawing. “He loved to doodle, and he loved to draw on the board. And we noticed it was pretty good,” Jakubowski told Michigan-based Fox affiliate WXMI in 2017.
And according to Jakubowski, Allan picked up fans for his work. The teacher added to WXMI, “Whenever we had kids come into the room – because we have some general education kids come in our room and help out – he would draw them. The kids were just ecstatic. They just loved it.”
In particular, Allan produced quirky, caricature-style drawings – ones that became popular with his classmates. And as it happens, these sketches would become an integral part of the student’s plan to get to prom. To start with, then, Allan set up shop during lunch period with the few tools he needed for his craft: typically sheets of white paper and a black Sharpie pen.
In 2017 Jakubowski explained Allan’s strategy to the School News Network, saying, “We knew about his drawing talent because he’s done his classmates. And we knew he [also] wanted to go to prom. So, somebody said, ‘Why don’t you draw people at lunch and set up a donation jar?’”
And in a bid to make his dancing dreams become a reality, Allan swapped his cartoons for cash. He’d happily draw anyone and everything; he just asked for small donations from his customers in exchange. It wasn’t long until Allan had amassed the $40 he needed for his prom ticket, either.
The gifted student wasn’t about to stop there, though. Spurred on by the success of his artwork sales, Allan started fundraising to help four of his fellow seniors also attend the prom. This effort, too, proved fruitful – all thanks to the 18-year-old’s skills at scribbling.
Indeed, Allan’s classmates, who are also autistic, even managed to pay for their tuxedo rentals from the budding artist’s earnings. Jakubowski revealed to WXMI, “We have five seniors, and all five of the kids can go to prom this year. I can’t wait to see them in their tuxes. They went to Men’s Warehouse to try them on, and they looked great.”
Fellow senior student Austin Dukesherer was also impressed by Allan’s artistic abilities, and the youngster quickly became a repeat customer. “[Allan]’s drawn me, he’s drawn my dog, he’s drawn me and other people in one picture,” the teen told WXMI. “He’s very talented.”
But Dukesherer wasn’t the only admirer of Allan’s sketches. You see, the autistic student had hordes of his peers lining up to pose for pictures every day at recess. And although Allan’s not much of a talker, the more fortunate members of the crowd would even get songs thrown in to the bargain, too. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the 18-year-old was deemed the “most artistic” member of his senior class.
As for how Allan has reacted to the demand for his drawings? Well, Jakubowski has given his take on the matter to WXMI, saying, “I think it makes him feel really good about his talent that he has, and it validates him as an artist.” The teacher added, “You can see [the students] love Allan [and] being with Allan and his personality. He’s going to be very missed next year.”
One person close to Allan was well aware of his gift, though. Indeed, Allan’s mom, Taletha Milton, had first spotted her son’s talent when he was just a toddler. She told the School News Network, “Ever since he was three or four, when he wanted to go somewhere or do something, he would draw the symbol for it.”
Milton continued, “I never knew a three-year-old could draw the whole Burger King symbol or kids at a park. And the way [Allan] draws – it’s like he starts off with the number three and ends up with an eagle or something. He sees it differently.”
And Milton was certainly aware that Allan had a dream of going to prom with his buddies. “He told me he didn’t want me to go with him,” the mom joked to the School News Network. However, she had had no clue as to how her son had managed to raise the money necessary to take him to the dance.
But the doting parent became emotional when she discovered the lengths her son had gone to in order to cover the costs for himself and his friends. None the wiser about Allan’s fundraising prowess, she had assumed that the prom was being funded by the school.
And Milton was practically reduced to tears when she discovered the truth. She added to the School News Network, “They just told me [his tuxedo and ticket] were taken care of, so this whole time I was thinking the school or the teacher did it. I’m so proud of my baby. I’m about to cry.”
Allan’s feat is arguably all the more impressive when you take into account that those with autism often find social situations and interactions difficult. Indeed, Allan’s mom admitted that having hoards of customers around him at lunchtime was “probably a lot for him.” Nevertheless, she added, “If he’s in his zone, doing what he likes to do, then it probably doesn’t bother him.”
So, thanks to his entrepreneurial spirit, Allan was able to go to his high school prom in a dashing black tuxedo – all paid for by his love of drawing. He teamed the suit with a green vest and attended the dance with his date. And after all his hard work to get there, let’s hope that Allan had an unforgettable night.