Unable to afford caps and gowns, kids skip graduation

The value of a high school diploma has been minimized in recent years, but it’s still a pretty big deal and putting in 12 years of work should be a cause for wild celebration.

So it’s disturbing to the nth degree to read today’s Eau Claire Leader-Telegram’s story that kids in the district there are skipping commencement exercises because they can’t afford the $42 for a cap and gown.

Fortunately, there are angels who walk among us and an organization has stepped in.

“We have students and families we know that aren’t able to attend graduation because they don’t have the financial means available to pay for a cap and gown,” said Pa Thao, executive director of the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, who has started a donation drive to collect used caps and gowns in the school colors of area institutions — light blue for North High School, purple for Memorial High School and black for the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.

They’re out of light blue now, however. Thao gave away the last one Tuesday.

“If you take it, we know you need it, and that’s all that matters,” she said.

At a high school, a booster club is also organizing a cap and gown drive and says the number of students asking for help is up substantially over a year ago.

A lot of Minnesota schools give the caps and gowns to students, although many charge a graduation fee during senior year to pay for the costs. In Minneapolis, for example, that’s $35. But the fees can vary from school to school. Woodbury charges $30, Tartan High School in Oakdale charges $45. Edina has a $65 fee.