Poor Students Who Can't Afford Graduation, End-Of-Year Festivities, Supported By Teachers, Community Members

Family financial struggles prevent many students from going to school dances and participating in other festivities that accompany the end of eighth grade -- a trend that is illuminated in Laura Klein’s recent “Teacher’s Diary” for The New York Times.

Proms, “senior” trips and graduation ceremonies are expensive occasions in themselves, not to mention the cost of accessories and primping that often go along with them.

“Who wants to go to graduation? It’s just eighth grade -- why is it a big deal?” One of Klein's strongest students answered when asked why she hadn’t paid senior dues. “When you graduate high school is when it matters,” she said. “I’ll go then instead.”

The knowledge that many of her students are unable to afford these events prompted Klein and her co-teacher to organize a collection for those students who have earned the right to attend, but are unable to due to financial limitations.

Klein writes that her co-teacher’s brother’s barbershop sponsors a fundraiser, and neighbors and friends chip in to sponsor a senior. Following the event, the students write thank-you notes to the people who helped them attend, and teachers send pictures of the kids having fun at prom and graduation.

These Good Samaritans are not limited to Klein’s Bronx school.

In Washington, members of Mountlake Terrace High School’s Class of 2012 held fundraisers -- including an American Idol spin-off -- to cut the cost of prom tickets for everyone from $50 to $40.

Local Northwest Hair Academy offered to style girls’ hair for a $20 donation to charity, and some students collected donated dresses for girls who couldn’t afford to buy one -- a charitable undertaking that has been echoed in Illinois and New Hampshire.

In Montana, Belgrade resident Amber Guth put together a pre-prom event known as “A Night to Remember.” The annual event offers nearly everything for free -- including dresses, shoes, tuxedos, boutonnieres, corsages, photographers and transportation in Cadillac Escalades.

The average price tag for the prom nationwide in 2012 was almost $1,100, contributing to an estimated $4 billion national prom industry.