By César Delgado, 17, Foshay Learning Center
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Illustration by César Delgado, 17, Foshay Learning Center

You’ve been waiting years for this: high school graduation. As you walk across the wooden stage your mind is filled mostly with useless knowledge. Your heart is filled with aspirations and goals for the future, your stomach with butterflies. But your pockets are completely empty, except for some lint. My point is: being a senior today is expensive.

There are senior dues. Activities such as grad night, senior breakfast and prom only add to that price. There’s also the cost of the SAT, ACT and AP exams. I don’t mind paying for these exams since they play an essential part in getting me to the next step, which is college. What gets me is the cost of everything else.

At my school, a public school near USC, the senior expenses add up to hundreds of dollars. This includes mandatory senior dues, which are $85 for your cap and gown, 10 graduation invitations and a 2004 key chain. There are also senior portraits with rented gowns or pull-over tuxedo tops, senior breakfast at Hard Rock Café at Universal City Walk, a class ring, yearbook, grad night at Disneyland, homecoming (even though we don’t have a football team) and the infamous prom. There’s also the class trip to Hawaii, which is an extra $669 if you go. Seniors and their parents can pay anywhere from $85 to more than $2,000 for all this, depending on what they buy. Students are students and we don’t work 9-to-5 jobs. It’s hard enough to earn money, let alone save it. Should all these senior activities build up and dig a huge hole in our wallets and our parents’ checking accounts? No, they shouldn’t. The senior trip went out with the TV show Saved by the Bell. And to me these activities are overrated since mingling at social events isn’t my strongest skill.

I haven’t paid one penny for my senior dues or for the other activities. I know I could have asked my mother for the money, but I figured she could spend it on better things like buying me a used car, which she did last month. I figure I’ll use my car more often than this other stuff. I don’t see the necessity in paying for a class ring I’ll wear for only a couple months, a $25 breakfast I could have at Denny’s for less money or a key chain that I’ll probably lose. I also stopped caring too much about school this year, so the traditional senior activities are at the bottom of my "to-do" list. I wouldn’t mind paying for the cap and gown, since a picture of me in my robe and square hat is an obligation in the family album. But I don’t think I should have to pay $85 for senior dues when I don’t want graduation invitations and the key chain. I also think that paying $15 to have your picture in the yearbook isn’t fair. I’ve never liked posing for pictures, so when the time came, I said "No thanks."

Don’t make me beg for money

My school helps students reduce the cost of most activities by giving us Penny Savers. Penny Savers are a scratch-off card issued through a contract that students must sign. This contract obligates you to fork over $105 for the card even if you don’t raise all the money. Seniors who don’t sign the contract pay the full price of any activity.

The Penny Savers are a timid student’s worst nightmare. The way these work is: you go up to a stranger and plead your case. "Excuse me, but would you like to help a student in need pay for his/her senior expenses?" If the stranger agrees, then you ask them to scratch one of the 144 circles. Behind the circles are small amounts of money ranging from 5 cents to $3. Whatever amount the person scratches off is what they owe. The person scratching your Penny Saver doesn’t get a prize or chocolate, just a grateful, "glad that’s over" type of thank you. The school could have made the fund-raiser more enticing. What’s wrong with selling cookies or candy? At least then, shy students would be selling something instead of pleading for money.

Don’t get me wrong. I think reducing the cost of these activities is a good thing, but I also think they shouldn’t be this expensive to begin with. The Penny Savers apparently are good for something other than a coaster for your drink. Students who participate don’t have to pay $25 for the breakfast; instead it’s free. Also, the cost of the prom is reduced from $110 to $75, which is closer to the typical price at other schools.

The prom might be that expensive because dinner is provided before the dance. But why should I fork over that much money? Foshay Learning Center’s reputation for throwing the lamest proms and holding the dullest assemblies is only reinforced when the guy monitoring the school’s front entrance is a DJ at our dances. Do you really think the school changed its style for the prom?

Students all over Los Angeles are paying for these activities, and the costs build up. Seniors at North Hollywood High School can pay up to $150 for senior portraits, $75 for their yearbooks and $50 for a cap and gown. Twelfth graders at Bravo Medical Magnet pay $75 for prom and $115 for senior dues.

Students shouldn’t have to pay this much for anything; I shouldn’t even have had to write this article. Sure, we get to visit famous attractions like Disneyland or City Walk and maybe spend some time in Hawaii. But is it worth it? It bothers me that I’m the only student at my school speaking up about these costs.

I’m not whining; I’m just offering advice to future graduating classes. If you’re not a senior yet, start saving up those bucks. Better yet, write a letter to the person in charge of the senior activities at your school or talk to your friends about these costs. Just raise awareness. Hopefully by doing this, costs will go down.