Meet The 2017 ‘Say Yes to the Prom’ Contest Winner

posted: 03/29/17
by: Rebecca Goldberg

Say Yes to the Prom is an annual TLC staple, that kicks off with a national prom dress donation drive for high school girls and ends with a red carpet event in partnership with local high schools.

This year, TLC and Seventeen teamed up to make one deserving student's prom goals come true. Students were asked to share how they're making a difference in the world; for an opportunity to get the full Say Yes to the Prom experience in NYC-- complete with fashion advice from Monte Durham who hosts each event.

Every story submitted was absolutely incredible and touching, but only one could be selected for this wonderful opportunity. That one lucky student was Kati Owens!

SYTTP 2017 winner

Kati wrote to us about some of the most trying times in her life. As a child, she lost her father to cancer, and was determined to put aside her pain in order to support her mom and younger sister. It's this focus and strength that has gotten her through life's ups and downs, and inspired her to both go on a mission trip to Panama and start a fundraiser that has saved hundreds of lives from Malaria.

She will be graduating as high school valedictorian this year, and will then be heading off to her dream college--paid for completely by scholarships. Looking ahead, she plans to work towards a degree that will allow her to become a medical missionary in third world countries. Having spent so much time caring for and giving to others, it seemed like it was certainly time for Kati to get a little 'TLC.'

Read on to get to know this year's Say Yes to the prom contest winner, Kati!

SYTTP 2017 contest winner

What are some of the most important lessons you've learned?

I have learned to appreciate every single part of life; whether it's something as small as a hug, or as grand as traveling the world. Every single moment with people you love is important, because you never know how long you'll have with them. I've learned that happiness and joy are two different things. For me, happiness is when I'm not sad, and joy can still exist in the presence of sadness. Through my experiences, I've learned that you can be heartbroken and still have joy.

What inspired you to go on the Panama mission trip?

I have always loved helping people, and I had always wanted to travel. So a mission trip seemed like the best way to do both! I wanted to make a difference in both the world and in my own life.

Tell us about the fundraiser you started.

After learning about malaria in class, my friend Katie and I worked with our teacher to create a fundraiser that would help raise money to provide bednets for those in Africa. The following year, we partnered with a local college to raise even more funds. With their help, we turned an annual basketball game into a successful fundraising event. 'Night of Nets' is now an annual fundraiser that will continue on even after we graduate. We have saved over 500 lives, to date, and plan to continue the global fight against malaria.

How did you feel when you won?

It was one of the happiest moments of my life! My mom found out while I was in school, so she went to the store and got balloons, flowers and chocolates, and she even made a sign! She then surprised me as I was leaving school. I cried because I was so happy. The excitement in the weeks leading up, getting to go to New York City for the first time, and getting my dream prom experience was an unimaginable experience. I am beyond grateful!

What's your dream job?

My dream job is to be a medical missionary. I want to travel to third world countries where medicine is scarce and help people in rural areas. After going to Panama, it was very clear to me what I wanted to do. I fell in love with the beauty I saw there, mostly in the people. I wanted to help every single one of them, and I believe being a medical missionary position will allow me to do just that.


TLC's I Am Campaign is all about expressing your true self. What's your 'I Am' descriptor?

I am vivacious! I'm outgoing and lively, and try to bring joy with me wherever I go!

Be sure to check out the 2017 'Say Yes to the Prom' special when it premieres Saturday, April 1st at 8/7c on TLC!

SYTTP 2017 contest winner
SYTTP 2017 contest winner
SYTTP 2017 contest winner