Berkeley High charges graduation admission

April 24, 2009 7:12:36 PM PDT
Seniors at Berkeley High School are getting a cold dose of recession reality. Budget cuts have forced the school to charge admission its graduation ceremony.

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It has been a tradition for the graduating class at Berkeley High to receive their diplomas on the stage of the University of California, Berkeley's Greek Theater.

But every year, renting the venue has become a little more expensive, and now Berkeley High is saying they cannot afford it.

"The budget gets tighter and tighter and the costs go up and up," Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said.

Students were given a choice, either hold the event at their own community theater or have their families and friends pay to attend -- $10 for the first two tickets and $15 for additional tickets. The student body council voted to charge for tickets.

Senior Marsalis Jackson says the proposal is unfair.

"Charging is probably going to lessen the chances of my family, actually all of the showing up for this event," Jackson said.

The cost to use the Greek Theater is more than $19,000. There are about 800 students graduating this year; selling two tickets per student would help raise only $16,000. And there are some extra expenses.

"But then there is the Berkeley police which is another chunk of money, one of the biggest pockets, and the sound system alone is about $10,000," Coplan said.

Berkeley High has held its graduation ceremony at the Greek Theater for more than 40 years.

"I think it's a great opportunity to have it at the Greek, because there are a lot of performers who go out there and it's a special venue," senior D. Bottomley said.

Students also like the Greek Theater because of its size; it seats up to 8,500 people.

"It's a tradition, it's like taking the next step into the world, the adult world," senior Kellie Edwards said.

Some are just concerned they will not be able to afford the rite of passage this year.

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