Financial help available for prom tickets


File photo.

Story by Colton Johnson, feature editor

For high school students, prom is the one night romanticized in movies and television shows as being the dance where anything could happen. It is portrayed as being the magical night that will be remembered forever.

That is, if you can afford to get in first.

With 54.4 percent of the students at our school meeting the requirements for free and reduced lunch–therefore identifying them as economically disadvantaged–the question of how the are supposed to pay for tickets is one that must be brought up for discussion.

“We send an email to all the senior teachers saying that if [they] have any students who are having trouble buying a prom ticket, and are doing the right things, working hard and deserve to go to prom, they can send their names to Mrs. Bishop, our counselor,” principal Brad Bailey said. “We get a list together and our Prom Committee looks at it and from there, we award ticket scholarships. Last year we may have had five people or maybe 10 at the most, so it’s not a whole lot.”

Judging from the low number of students who were awarded scholarships last year compared to the number of students on free and reduced lunch, it can be concluded that a large number of students were still unable to attend prom due to fiscal conflicts. This could potentially be a result of the grey area teachers are put in by deciding who exactly is deserving of going to prom and who isn’t. Going to a school dance is ultimately the student’s choice, and it should be a choice to those who cannot afford it as well. Teachers may not always know who cannot afford tickets, and there is nothing that states what exactly makes a student worthy of entrance to a dance, considering that hard work is not a deciding factor for people who have the money to purchase a ticket.

“The tickets are $35 for the first two weeks. We do it lower to try to get more people to buy instead of waiting until the last minute,” Bailey said. “I know if you have a couple, it’s $90 which is expensive, plus you have dinner and you dress up. It’s a huge expense, and we are continuously trying to find ways to lower the cost.”

This expense could be the deciding factor as to whether or not these low income students which happen to make up over half of our school, go to prom or not.

“We just don’t try to advertise [the scholarship tickets] too much because we don’t want to bring any embarrassment to students who are getting that,” Bailey said. “We want them to know that if they want to go, we will try to find a way to do it. So if anyone wants to help that cost, they can make a donation to our Prom Committee. We can create a side fund inside that account for students who are in need of scholarships for tickets.”

The high price of prom tickets is put in place to try to combat the colossal price of prom that was not met through fundraising in order to make sure the night has all the luxuries expected.

“We start raising money early on through fundraisers,” Bailey said. “We use Kona Ice trucks and [Prom Mom’s] have sold brownies and cookies. All that money goes towards the expenses of prom as well as the auction items. There’s over 100 auction items consisting of gift cards, microwaves, refrigerators and dorm stuff–things that are applicable for college. We try to make sure everyone gets something.”

Taking this into consideration, in order to try to change things for the future, it would most likely have to be a give and take situation if no further attempts to raise money were made.

“We could lower the ticket prices, we would just have to lower the amount of food or auction items,” Bailey said. “The most expensive stuff is the auction items. That’s where you run into things like Chromebooks and iPads, which cost a lot of money.”

Ultimately, it is up for discussion as to whether or not the value of a student going to prom trumps the opportunity for students to win prizes that could aid them throughout college. In order to have this discussion, though, the school must first be able to identify the students who do not have the means to afford the tickets.

“If we can be aware of who they are, we could privately bring each one individually into the counselor’s office and talk to them and at least provide them with an opportunity to go to prom,” Bailey said. “We could set up a separate fundraising account for donations for those who cannot afford it. Kind of like we do with Tiger Share with yearbooks, where people donate their money for a yearbook to give to seniors at the end of the year who can’t afford them.”

In order to better identify the people with needs, a possible solution could be to include a reduced price of prom tickets with the package for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and reduced ACT test fees. Judging by the percentage, most students are not embarrassed to sign up for free and reduced lunch, so any lingering fear of embarrassment could be eliminated by including the tickets in the package.

“If you’re on free and reduced lunch, then you also have a chance for ACT fees being reduced, which we advertise. We could do the prom thing where we advertise it through free and reduced lunch where if there’s a need they could see Mrs. Bishop,” Bailey said. “We could pull up a list of who qualifies on the free and reduced lunch list and bring them in individually and ask them.”

In doing this, it would be easier to try to eliminate abusers of the system who may try to say they can’t afford to pay for it even though they are capable. If they do not meet the requirements for free and reduced lunch, they are not eligible and would not make their way onto the list of people to receive reduced prom tickets.

“What you run into in situations like this is some people who can afford to buy prom tickets a lot of times will want to get on the list where they don’t have to pay for anything, and that’s not the purpose,” Bailey said. “It’s for the ones who really can’t afford it, and I’m not saying everyone, but there’s always a few people.”

It is also necessary to understand that if a system like this one were to be implemented, cuts would have to be made in other areas or more fundraising would have to be pursued and completed.

“We have an All in One campaign that the district does where a teacher can donate, say, $10 from their paycheck automatically every month to an organization of their choice, which would be $120 [at the end of 12 months]. There’s the TISD foundation which goes to things like grants for teachers, and we could potentially earmark money if [teachers] donated it towards the TISD foundation,” Bailey said. “I’m not sure, but they could set up an account within the TISD foundation for prom.”

This could raise a substantial amount of money to go toward trying to help pay for prom tickets. Along with this, other clubs and organizations such as STUCO could possibly set goals to raise money as well. Ultimately, it is an issue that needs to be addressed, and if it is to be solved, everyone must come together to try to help.

“Most of the time if there’s a need, we will find a way to help them,” Bailey said. “If you have someone you know who wants to go to prom this year but can’t afford it, you can tell your English teachers and they will send their names to Mrs. Bishop.”