Think back to the day you graduated from high school… that feeling of intense pride as you donned your cap and gown, walked across the stage, shook the hand of your principal, and received your diploma to thunderous applause from friends and family. If you are like most, it was probably a defining moment; the culmination of twelve years of hard work and dedication.
Now, imagine having satisfied all of the requirements for graduation – possibly against overwhelming odds – and yet being denied the opportunity to participate in a formal commencement ceremony because your family couldn’t afford the requisite cap and gown. Approximately 3.5 million students are expected to graduate from high school this year. Yet many will be unable to fully participate in graduation, due to lack of funding for the appropriate apparel.
In late May of 2016, Hayley’s daughter came home with the story of a young man who had been homeless for most of his Senior Year. Despite his troubled upbringing, Larenzo knew that education would be the key to a successful future, so he focused all of his time and energy on his studies. Larenzo could have succumbed to truancy and street life, like many others in his situation, but he didn’t. Instead, he graduated in the Top 4% of his class, and received an academic scholarship to attend the University of North Florida. Yet despite his heroic efforts, Lorenzo was almost denied formal recognition due to the inability to purchase a cap and gown. Thankfully, a generous school administrator heard about Larenzo’s situation, and purchased the garments, allowing the deserving young man to graduate with the rest of his classmates. Today, Lorenzo is a full-time college student, armed with confidence, self-respect, and a bright future!
We established The Larenzo Project to ensure that no deserving High School Senior would ever be denied the honor of formal graduation, because they could not afford a cap and gown. This year, we will focus our efforts in our home town of Tampa, FL. where we estimate that 300 of students are at risk of missing out on a graduation celebration. Our goal is to donate the entire amount of caps and gowns to Hillsborough County for the 2017 Graduating Class. We hope to expand our efforts nationally, as quickly as possible.
We believe that every Senior, who has earned the right to graduate, should have the opportunity to be recognized and celebrated with the rest of their class. Graduation marks the culmination of a childhood journey, and the beginning of new adventures to embrace!