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'We don’t want the grads to feel like they’re being ripped off this year': Coquitlam parent

The after-grad committees at SD43 high schools are fundraising and trying to find creative ways to honour their 2021 graduates during the second year of the pandemic.
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Kelvin Fong, chair of Centennial secondary's after-grad committee, is calling on local firms to donate cash, items for the 2021 graduate swag bags.

Physical distancing restrictions may be loosening but after-grad committees in the Coquitlam school district are still planning for virtual events for their 2021 graduates.

And many of the parent groups are now reaching out to the business community — in the Tri-Cities and beyond — for donations to fill the grads’ goody bags at convocation.

Kelvin Fong, the after-grad committee chairperson at Coquitlam’s Centennial secondary, said this year marks the 30th dry grad for the high school, with 370 students leaving.

He’s distributing a letter to local companies and alumni to request cash or items as “fundraising has been pretty limited,” he told the Tri-City News. “Last year, we did a full blitz for our grads before spring break but, this year, it’s a little more challenging.”

So far, the Centennial after-grad committee has brought in $4,000 through a gift card fundraiser, food sale and Purdy’s chocolates sale and through ongoing bottle recycling via the Return-It Depot; it hopes to collect another $1,000 from a spring plant sale.

Fong, who has had two sons graduate and a daughter next year, said he’s used to raising funds for big after-grad parties that include lights shows and casino tables. “It’s a different time and it’s disappointing we can’t do that. We just have to get creative.”

“We don’t want the grads to feel like they’re being ripped off this year,” he added. “We want to give them something half-decent to help them remember their special day.”

Businesses can give gifts to Centennial grads by emailing [email protected].

Will Davis, who chairs the PAC and after-grad committees at Dr. Charles Best in Coquitlam, said his school is well-organized for graduation fundraising: In March, the Grade 11 parents host a large dance at the school for grad events the following year.

Luckily, the dance took place last March — just days before the pandemic lockdown — and the 2021 committee will use its cash to augment the virtual ceremonies for the 250 students leaving the school, providing a swag bag with hoodies and other treats. The school will also offer a photo shoot, with different backgrounds, at the walk-up, he said.

To donate to the Charles Best after-grad committee, email [email protected].

Meanwhile, Port Moody secondary has also cancelled its after-grad party. Last year, it used its fundraising cash to give $50 to each graduate, and may do a similar gesture this year, said Sherry Nevalainen, a PAC co-chair whose son graduated last year; however, if social distancing restrictions are eased, there may be a dinner for the 300 grads, she said.