The high cost of high school graduation in Graham

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GRAHAM, N.C. -- Students across the Triad are preparing for one of the most exciting times in their lives: high school graduation.

It's a tradition that celebrates academic achievement, but it also comes with a price tag. Senior lunches, school pictures, diplomas, caps and gowns; it all adds up.

Graham High School mother Bonnie Rogers wishes it could be more affordable.

Alamance-Burlington School System offers caps and gowns starting at around $50, if you order early. The price goes up to nearly one hundred dollars after a few weeks.

"My money is earmarked before I get it. I don't have any extra laying around," explained Rogers.

She could not be more proud of her son, a high school senior who's already been accepted to five colleges and is incredibly active in activities in and out of school.

Rogers has been saving up for graduation costs, but says she can't afford a cap and gown now that the price has gone up to ninety dollars.

Recent years have been tough for Bonnie, who suffers from a long list of illnesses and had to start over with her son after a fire destroyed their home and possessions four years ago.

"I know this is very important for my son to have this rite of passage. I was going to make sure he gets it," Rogers insisted.

She talked to counselors and the principal at Graham High School, hoping to find a more affordable option.

"She did inform me they had four or five cap and gowns to loan to students, and she would put my son on the list. But if there are more? If there's a sixth senior who doesn't have the money? I guess he doesn't get to go."

Principal Charlotte Holmes promises that will not be the case.

"We won't let a student who's not able to afford something not have that opportunity. We will find the resources. Just communicate your need, and communicate it as early as possible, so we can make sure it happens," she told FOX8.

Principal Holmes says there are students every year who need help, which is why they started a new program last year.

"When we conclude graduation we ask students, if they're interested, to return their gowns so that we have a stock for students who may not be able to afford it in the future," she said.

Rogers hopes her son will get one of those gowns, but decided to order one online for $16, just in case. It may not match the others perfectly, she added, but she's just glad he can walk at graduation to pick up his hard-earned diploma.

Rogers said she's bringing attention to her struggles to help other students in the future. "The only way you're going to break the cycle of poverty is with an education. And in America.. we get free education." She laughed, "But it's not so very free all the time!"

Principal Holmes also said students can borrow a cap and gown from another student who's already graduated.

Rogers said she wishes there were more options for low-income families so they could enjoy graduation day instead of stressing about how to pay for it.


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