Growing number of high school seniors facing financial stress - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Growing number of local high school seniors facing financial stress

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - High school graduation is right around the corner.  That's usually a happy time, but it's become stressful for some seniors.

Recently, WQOW News 18 launched the series 'Kids in Need' to raise awareness of the issues local children face.  In local schools, a cap and gown is just one cost students are struggling to afford.

The graduation march is a rite of passage for high school seniors. But, a cap and gown also come with a price tag, one a growing number of students in the Eau Claire School District, can't afford. "They're putting in some of them, full time jobs. And a lot of them are the breadwinner in the family, because maybe the parents can't get a job," said Julie O'Brien. "And a lot of them are responsible for either paying rent when they turn 18 or are on their own when they're 18," added Kristin Craker, "but it's not always by choice."

Partnership coordinators like Julie O'Brien and Kristin Craker work to make sure every student gets what they need, from clothes for a job interview, to a notebook or even a cap and gown. 

"I had a mother call and was in tears because we had a cap and gown for him and she said he is the first one to graduate from our family so it's real rewarding in those ways," recalled Julie. "You feel good when you're able to help a family out."

And this might surprise you, partnership coordinators have no budget to work with. They rely solely on the generosity of the community, through donations by residents or businesses. "Spiral notebooks are 15 cents and some of these places you can say how about you give me 2 for 15 cents, and they'll do that, or they'll throw an extra case in so we have things for our kids, we're very fortunate," commented Julie.

Last year alone over $14,000 dollars in supplies and gift cards were collected and given to students at North High School. "There is no such thing as the word no," said Julie. "We will always find a way. Because there is a need, we will find a way to meet that need, so we never give up."

No budget, coupled with a bad economy created a growing wish list for partnership coordinators at every school in the district. One thing schools are always in need of are bus tokens, or passes for students who have no other way to get to and from school.

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