Are School Graduations Going Overboard?

Are School Graduations Going Overboard? Pre-school graduation, Kindergarten graduation, 8th grade graduation? High-cost parties & ceremonies. Where do we draw the line?


When we were seniors in high school, our senior celebration was an all night party at the high school. The school brought in a hypnotist, fortune teller, and various other small activities. We used the time to hang out with the friends we had spent the last 13 years with. It was simple, yet fun, AND everyone could afford it. Adjusting for inflation, I’d say that party cost us kids (or our parents), about 20-30 bucks per kid.

I’ve had 2 school graduations in my lifetime – my HS graduation and my college graduation. My son has had 4 – and he’s only going into 12 grade! Now, we’re seeing parties and celebrations for preschool graduation, Kindergarten graduation, fifth grade graduation, 8th grade farewell… parents are handing over money for class gifts and parties for these celebrations. $20 here, $50 to $200 there… it adds up!

A couple of years ago, we were surprised to hear about a Rochester School’s 8th grade farewell celebration. How does this sound for a class of eighth graders? A Detroit river cruise, behind the scenes tour of Ford Field, Tigers game, and finishing off with dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe… all for a total of $150 per person! $150 is worth the cost for such an extravaganza, but why is such an extravaganza needed in the first place? $150 seems like an awful lot of money for a family to cough up. Imagine being the child of parents who truly couldn’t afford such a class trip. There are more out there that can’t than you probably think.

Recently, I stopped by Dave and Busters with friends to spend a nice early afternoon on 1/2 price Wednesday for lunch. But, as we pulled into what would have otherwise been a pretty empty lot, we saw 5 school buses. Inside was a swarm of fifth graders celebrating their fifth grade graduation with a private room, buffet and games at Dave and Busters. I wonder what that costs?! I’m not talking about a private school in Birmingham, I’m talking about 5th graders from a Macomb County elementary school.

My son attended a Rochester Schools Middle School. He was on the track team in 8th Grade and had to quit because of schedule conflicts with his baseball team. The school begged us to donate his track uniform back to the school for another child to use instead of keeping it because “so many kids can’t afford the $5 uniform”. Another Rochester Schools elementary school has a staggering 40% of its students on the assisted lunch program – ROCHESTER SCHOOLS DISTRICT. Yet, they want the parents to cough up $150 at the end of the year so 8th graders can go to a Tigers game?

Also, we have heard that the senior all night parties have also “graduated” to a much higher entertainment status… as many are held at Dave and Busters. Dave and Busters closes the doors to the public at 9p, and hosts a local school’s senior all night party. Again, wonder what that costs?!! It can’t be cheap considering that Dave and Busters is losing all the potential business it would have had by staying open to the public.

Even back in the caveman days of 1989, my high school had a Senior All Night Party. It was held at the high school where parents & school staff opened the high school pool, the gym, the auditorium (for school rock bands), and the cafeteria for donated pizza & food. This all-night party set my parents back a whopping $15 (in ’89). Not too shabby.

All I’m saying here is that it seems like all of these school graduations activities are getting blown out of proportion. When do we draw the line? Does each year have to top the next? What will the expectations become? Do we need all these non-senior graduation celebrations? And, most importantly… are we catering to the masses, OR are we starting to price people out of the fun with these expensive events.

Don’t get me wrong, these parties and trips sound like a blast. Chalk that up to “I wish we had those when I was in school”… but I can’t help but feel badly for parents who struggle to afford these (me), or downright can’t afford it. Plus, I like to think people from my generation survived just fine without a preschool graduation, Kindergarten graduation, elementary school graduation, and junior high school graduation.

I’m reminded of an anecdote from former Detroit Tigers great (current Detroit Tigers announcer) Kirk Gibson. When he was managing the Arizona Diamondbacks, his son was graduating from high school. Team VPs asked Gibson if he wanted to take a few games off to fly to Detroit to see his son graduate. His response – “for high school graduation? No thanks, I expect him to graduate.”

Are these school graduation events necessary? Should our kids be happy with less? What do you think? Are School Graduations Going Overboard?

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