Graduation fees for some D.C. high school seniors have reached $400 - a number students and their parents find overwhelming.
The costs include their participation in their school's cap and gown ceremonies.
"It's kind of scary to think you've done all you can do and your kid has done all that you've asked them to, and they're not going to be able to take this last leap across the stage into adulthood," parent Jamie Davis said.
A group of students approched their neighborhood mentor, Chef Furard Tate with Inspire BBQ. Tate said in a city that has a graduation rate of about 50 percent, those who make it should be celebrated.
"That whole commencement exercise means so much to the stability of the family moving forward, that without it, there's a gap, and it might not happen for another generation," Tate said. "Half of them are on public assistance of some form and they get reduced or free lunches."
The District isn't the only local school system to charge graduation fees. Across the DMV, graduation fees range from $60 to $400.
In Fairfax County, "if a student is eligible for free or reduced price meals, schools will either reduce or waive the fee."
In Montgomery County, "we do not allow those fees to be a barrier for any of our students to fully participate in graduation ceremonies."
While some students are finding the funds for their ceremonies, others are going to extremes.
"Some of them actually resort to robbing and stealing and things like that," graduating senior Deonta Fouch said. "It shouldn't be that way. Some kids with great heads on their shoulders feel like they have no other way so they resort to the easiest thing possible to get fast money."
Whether they get their fees paid for or not, some graduating seniors just want to make sure others in their shoes won't be faced with the same hurdles.
"To tell kids they've got to go to school just to tell them, 'Yeah, now you got to pay us to leave,' it's like highway robbery," graduating senior Thaddeus Morsell said.
To help a D.C. graduating senior walk the stage, visit NoGradFees.com.
District of Columbia Public Schools released the following statement Monday:
“We believe graduation should be a time for celebration and nobody should be prohibited from participating because of the cost. However, each school determines their own fees and we understand that this has now become a problem. In the short term, any family struggling with graduation fees should contact their school leader and we will work together to address concerns. In the long term, we need to determine how to make graduation fees more equitable and affordable and we are committed to doing just that.”