Topeka Public Schools is offering extra chances to celebrate graduation this year. That is after an uproar over limited tickets to hear Michelle Obama speak at the actual ceremony.
“I’m not anti-Obama, I’m pro student. This has nothing to do with politics or race, this has to do with the students and their graduation, this is about families this is about coming together,” said Taylor Gifford, Topeka High senior.
Taylor Gifford is a Topeka High Senior, she started a change.org petition to get the Topeka School Board to have regular, separate graduations, instead of the unified graduation.
“I’m the oldest of 8 kids, and you know my siblings look up to me a lot. And to be able to have them there as I’m walking across the stage and hear them screaming ‘Tay Tay!’ that’s really exciting for me,” said Gifford.
“For all schools to come together and celebrate the oneness of Topeka as opposed to what Topeka looked like 60 years ago, I think it was significant this year,” said Dr. Beryl New, Principal of Highland Park High School
Topeka West, Topeka High and Highland Park high schools announced in addition to the graduation ceremony at the Kansas Expocentre, they will have a “Senior Recognition Night,” the night before graduation.
“Each high school has traditions that are special to their high schools. So with the unified ceremony, there was the thought that it would be important to also allow students and their families to enjoy a traditional recognition of the seniors,” said Dr. New.
They hope it will make up for the fact that students will only get 6 tickets for graduation. But Gifford says it does not.
“The traditions, it’s a start in the right step, but you know our families can’t be there to see us walk, and that’s one of the biggest times in our life, so I’m going to keep going until they lift that limitation.”
Gifford nearly hit her goal of 2,500 signatures on change.org. She hopes to have 7,500 before she takes her petition to the Board of education.
Topeka West will hold their senior recognition at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. Highland Park will hold theirs at their football stadium. Topeka high has not announced where they will hold their senior recognition night.