Graduating with Style

Tradition? That’s formal and boring.

The high school graduation ceremony has long been viewed as a time to recognize the achievements of teenagers who successfully completed grades 9 through 12. Long gowns and caps represent the school’s official color while giving an air of academic formality to the event, with sashes and tassels being used to denote individual students’ accomplishments and extracurricular activities. Now, these caps may be covered in glitter and song lyrics.

The Class of 2015 is the first graduating class of West Johnston to have the option to decorate their graduation caps. Administration announced the decision earlier this month at the senior meeting in the auditorium, and it was met by excited surprise from the nearly 300 graduating seniors. The decorations must be flat, 2D only with the exception of small rhinestones and pearls, and are intended to be a way for students to leave one last mark of self-expression on their school.

“I’m so excited to decorate my cap, even if that sounds weird, I really am. I think it’ll be so cool to see everyone’s, and we were all so shocked to hear that we could do it this year,” Jamar Moses said.

Senior student government had sent out an interest survey to seniors and their parents in late March and early May to gather support for a proposal they intended to present to principal Dr. Paula Coates. Officers wanted to set up a meeting to convey their class’s desire to decorate graduation caps, but the meeting with administration never took place. Administration decided to allow decoration on their own accord.

“I was one of the officers preparing the proposal for decorating caps to Dr. Coates. She never responded to my email about setting a meeting,” Riley Andrews said. “So I had given up, thought that it would definitely never happen. I was happily proven wrong.”

Students’ reasons for wanting to decorate their caps all differed slightly, but were all rooted in a desire to have a chance to creatively express themselves and stand out from the sea of teal during the ceremony.

“I wanted to stand out. Everyone is their own person and we all have different goals in life so being able to customize our grad caps can show others who we really are as individuals,” Sukhmani Pannu said.

The majority of students seem to be choosing decor for either aesthetic, comic or pop cultural value. Moses chose to put a replica of rapper Kanye West’s album “Graduation,” for both his appreciation of West and for the play on words.

Moses wearing his handmade tribute to Kanye West's album "Graduation."

Moses wearing his handmade tribute to Kanye West’s album “Graduation.”

“I love Kanye and his music, and this album especially, and with the title it was just too perfect to not put on my cap,” Moses said.

Andrews decided to show her love of Southern chic style and monogramming in a simplistic way.

Andrews chose to let a large white monogram of her initials stand alone on her cap.

Andrews chose to let a large white monogram of her initials stand alone on her cap.

“I chose to put my monogram because it’s pretty RAD (get it) and it just shows who I am,” Andrews said.

Taylor Steffens decided to surprise her classmates with a tribute to her feline friends.

Steffens wants her classmates to laugh out loud when they see her on graduation day.

Steffens wants her classmates to laugh out loud when they see her on graduation day.

“I wanted to do something about my cats because everyone knows I love cats and I thought it would be funny,” Steffens said. “It’s glittery and pretty but the message is just silly and awesome.”

After spending days on Pinterest and shopping at craft stores for the perfect materials, Pannu chose to blend her future plans with style and feminine touches.

Pannu managed to represent her future school; UNC Charlotte, her love of pretty things, her initials and her loyalty to her school.

Pannu managed to represent her future school; UNC Charlotte, her love of pretty things, her initials and her loyalty to her school.

“I chose a floral Lilly Pulitzer print because it went well with teal… I also chose glitter in my favorite color, a monogram so my parents could pick me out in the crowd and small paw print stickers to symbolize how I forever and always be a Wildcat,” Pannu said.

Most of the graduating class has ideas for their own spin on decorating caps, but are waiting to begin crafting until after exam week has ended. The graduation ceremony this year will mark the beginning of a colorful new tradition.

“I hope that every class after us gets to do this and see how much fun it is to decide on a design and see it come to life,” Steffens said.