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Burbank High seniors, parents race to raise funds for on-campus graduation

Burbank High seniors, parents race to raise funds for on-campus graduation
Burbank High School principal Michael Bertram makes a few remarks about valedictorian David Minasyan during the school's 2017 graduation ceremony. Burbank High needs to raise $36,000 by March 15 to keep graduation ceremonies on campus or they'll be moved to Memorial Field. (Miguel Vasconcellos)

While memories of their school days may be priceless, there will be a cost for Burbank High School seniors who want to enjoy graduation on their own campus.

The high school’s students and parents have learned they’ll need to generate $36,000 by March 15 to cover the cost for a graduation at Kemp-Kallem Field or the ceremony will be moved across town to Memorial Field, located adjacent to archrival Burroughs High.

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Burbank principal Michael Bertram sent an email to parents in late January outlining the need to raise funds for a graduation expected to cost nearly double that $36,000 figure.

“There were many parents that expressed their interest in fundraising to meet that goal and felt that they should have an opportunity to do so,” Bertram wrote. “I fully support their effort.”

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Bertram added, “If we were to divide the remaining $36,000 cost between all the 12th-grade students, it would total $61 per student to make up the difference. This is not a mandatory cost per 12th grader. This is a suggested donation.”

Those interested in donating can send a contribution through PayPal at paypal.me/2019bhsgraduation, in care of chief fundraiser Ani Pakhanyan.

In addition to seeking cash donations, Pakhanyan and a group of similarly concerned parents have held a variety of fundraisers, including a taco sale at Burbank on Tuesday.

The group also has partnerships with area businesses such as Kokoroll Cafe, 214 E. Olive Ave. Burbank, and Club Pilates, 5077 Lankershim Blvd Suite F, North Hollywood, in which a percentage of proceeds will be donated to the fundraising efforts.

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“We’re a handful of parents trying to do whatever we can,” Pakhanyan said. “We raised a good amount of money on Taco Tuesday, but realistically, you can’t raise too much selling tacos. We’re hoping the community can come out and help us.”

As of Thursday, Pakhanyan said the school had raised approximately $4,000.

While Pakhanyan thought it would “be challenging” to reach the $36,000 target in a short time, she wanted to assure donors their money would not be wasted.

“The best part about all this is if we don’t reach our goal, we will refund any donation that anyone has made through PayPal,” Pakhanyan said. “The money that comes through events like Taco Tuesday … will be donated to the school’s art programs.”

On Dec. 20, district director of secondary education John Paramo delivered a report to the board outlining the significantly higher costs to host graduation ceremonies at Burbank High versus Burroughs.

Burbank’s 2018 graduation cost $60,416, which was 130% more expensive than Burroughs’ total of $26,237. It’s estimated an on-campus graduation at Burbank High this year will cost around $68,000.

The difference is due to extra costs for Burbank, such as police and the construction of a tall platform.

On top of Burbank High’s unique needs, the school site also seats fewer people than does Memorial Field.

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Burbank has held its last two graduations on campus after having moved the ceremony from the Starlight Bowl in 2016.

Perhaps the first hint of an issue with a potential shift in Burbank’s graduation locale came Jan. 17 when student-body president Aleko Brice reported a survey he conducted to the board.

“As you can imagine, this didn’t go very well by our senior class,” Brice said. “Many were complaining about it being unfair that this happened in ‘our year’ [with others] mentioning the crosstown rivalry between our two schools.”

Brice said he polled 125 seniors and 105 said they were “very strongly opposed” or “strongly opposed” to the change of venue to Memorial Field.

Regardless of the final outcome, Bertram said he expected another memorable graduation.

“The response I have received has been a mixed bag, from some saying they’re fine with the switch and others saying they’ll never graduate there,” Bertram said. “It’s a tough thing, but I know that no matter where we graduate, I’m going to make it a memorable event for everyone involved.”

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