Graphic by Michael Lozano
With graduation rapidly approaching, seniors and their parents are starting to plan out their celebrations. It might even feel as if some parents are more excited than their own kids.
The pressure to meet your parents’ expectations is, I assume, a lifelong struggle. I am not yet prepared for the anxiety I will receive walking across the stage, and the confusion on my family’s faces when wondering why my cap and gown is green.
My aunt Marie attended Poly, so naturally I had to as well. There is a framed photo of my family hero glued onto my grandmother’s wall. It’s there that she taunts me, smiling in her pure gold cap and gown. I’ve stared at that picture my whole life, waiting for mine to be glued up next to it.
This, of course, will not happen, since receiving a golden cap and gown is not easy. It’s a way to praise the perfect attendance–4.0–cookie-cutter scholars while the the rest of us normal folk rock the standard green. The tradition has been around for decades and is definitely seen as a status symbol. I look at a golden gown and think, “that is a person who left a legacy at Poly.” It is something many people thrive for and when I realized I wasn’t going to follow in my aunt’s footsteps, I felt like a complete failure. I am still going to graduate, but I still feel like I’ve lost.
Don’t get me wrong, those students do deserve it. They’ve given their all and sacrificed a lot to be on top, but you know what’s a great reward for that? Going to your dream university and having a successful career. I mean, that’s what they do it for, not to make a fashion statement.
Graduating high school should feel like a high achievement, but it won’t be all balloons and confetti when my dad’s lecturing me all night about how if I only applied myself, I’d be draped in medals and awards.
I am not a straight “A” student. I’m not even a straight “B” student. But I have been on the honor roll since freshman year. I have been an asset to my school in more ways than an average student: From being a part of the school’s newspaper publication via writing, editing, and distribution to filming videos about each pathway for the school website. I truly believe that I bleed green and gold, yet they refuse to acknowledge my achievements.
I consider myself to be a good, hardworking student and see myself as a scholar but I know that those feelings will change immediately as I walk across the stage. I’m not the only one who feels like they’ve received the short end of the stick.
“It puts other students down, even when they are trying their best,” says Poly senior Julian Speed. Speed feels that he put a lot of effort into his high school career and is disappointed that he will receive no recognition on graduation day.
Other students acknowledge the stress involved in trying to achieve such an honor. My classmate, Leslie Cheth, believes that the color of our caps and gowns only creates pressure in how we believe people will see us. “It [shouldn’t] really affect people, we’re all graduating the same way,” she says. “It only affects how their parents and people look at them, how they see themselves.”
It’s possible that I’m among the very few who will care about the color of my attire. I know that my dad loves and supports me, even if I’m not the smartest person in my class. Of course nobody will outright call me stupid — it’ll be all in my head, like I know it is now. The worst part is that I’ve been working really hard all four years and I just wasn’t good enough. Not good enough for a color.
If we are all “scholars and champions” — the phrase literally painted on the side of the 400 building — maybe the school should start treating us all like that. Instead of promoting elitism, can’t we all just celebrate together, so my dad won’t be ashamed of me?