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Building High School Memories-How to Help Your Teen Through Senior Year

Updated on June 24, 2013

High School Senior

The first day of the last year of school!
The first day of the last year of school! | Source

High school years

My nephew moved in with me when he was fifteen and just starting his ninth grade-a freshman in high school. That was almost four years ago and he is now embarking on his senior year. I’ve given a lot of thought about our journey together and what it means to play the role of a supportive guidance.

There are a lot of ways that kids can get off track from what is important. Growing up is much more difficult with the rate of bullying and the cyber threats and the latest distractions from technology. So many changes since I was raising my two daughters, and the changes in learning alone is amazing. They didn’t use computers in their classrooms, but now it is archaic not to learn by computer.

Receiving the Senior Class Ring

Ring Ceremony
Ring Ceremony | Source

High School Class Ring

The first challenge of the senior year is how to afford all of the expenses that are associated with graduation. Let’s face it there are some basic necessities even if he does not participate in the ‘frills’. Basic in my opinion would be the cap and gown and obligatory senior photo. Announcements fall into the ‘iffy’ category-I say it is a necessity; financially, I could make my own and save a bundle. A senior high school class ring is not a necessity and I required all of my children, including my nephew, to purchase their own if that was what they wanted.

In J’s school, there was a ring ceremony. After insisting he get dressed up for this I was disappointed that it was literally no big deal. The man handing the rings out stood in the cafeteria with only a secretary there to observe and assist, no other administrative staff was present. The second disappointment was that it did not fit J. He ended up having to exchange it and after a long wait, it still does not fit.

Preparing for Senior Photos

Getting ready for senior photos
Getting ready for senior photos | Source

Senior Photos

The second important event, which took place during the summer vacation, was the long awaited senior photos. He looked so handsome in his clothes, dress shoes and broad smile! I showed him how to mousse his hair and we shopped for his ‘change of outfits’. Things sure have changed since I was a senior-we took black and white photos and a dress outfit and a smile were all that was required.

J was able to bring his trophies, his awards and his dog for a photo shoot. It was fun. We took numerous shots both indoors and outside and even the dog cooperated! It’s always a tough decision when it comes time to make the final selections and J finally narrowed it down to four different poses. Of course he ordered one with Beauty, his dog.

Graduation Announcements

Announcements come in the Senior's School colors.
Announcements come in the Senior's School colors. | Source

Graduation Announcements and Scholarship Applications

This past weekend we just finished reviewing the catalog for announcements. I've been waiting for this because it is such a milestone. The catalog is filled with other enticing products all tuned in to the teen ego and the parent's wallet. Besides the announcement, which was my focus point, J had to have a key ring, a tee shirt and a hoodie. Those items are the 'extras' that he will be paying for. The announcements were selected and the Parents Meeting will be next. I'm sure the representative of the company will expect check in hand.

Scholarship and college applications are what we are in the middle of now. According to my oldest brother, we are already behind the ball. But, J has problems with deciding where he will be going and what he will do. We keep assuring him that he’ll discover some of this along the way and not knowing is normal. It’s a time for exploration.

Although it is a fact that the later you apply the less scholarship money available, even those who make a last minute decision is going to be supported by an admission staff who will be eager to help a freshman enter college.

I'm interested in what you think:

Who has the greater Prom Cost?

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Senior Prom Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Final touchesDashing and Debonaire J and his date posing for photosRed rose wrist corsageProm Theme:  Disney Princesses
Final touches
Final touches | Source
Dashing and Debonaire
Dashing and Debonaire | Source
J and his date posing for photos
J and his date posing for photos | Source
Red rose wrist corsage
Red rose wrist corsage | Source
Prom Theme:  Disney Princesses
Prom Theme: Disney Princesses | Source

Senior Prom

One of the important events I encouraged my shy nephew to attend was his prom. There are many reasons why one does not choose to attend such as: cost, work schedule, family obligations, religious beliefs, or disinterest.

On the other hand, there are some reasons why one should encourage their household senior to attend, the main reason being-memories. For me, as I've emphasized to J, the senior year should be a 'fun' year filled with making memories. All of those enjoyable activities you have not participated in is now before you as one, last chance.

Some high schools have a large population, a huge group of volunteers, and a budget to match. They are able to afford their prom at an off school site and rent limos to drive them around before the big dance.

Other high schools, like the rural one that my nephew attends, has almost no budget, there are no special places to drive around to, even if there were limousines, and the high school gym is the decorated location of the dance. Still, it is better than nothing for the students who've looked forward to this.

It was an exciting time for both me and J. He had a special friend he was going with and I had many questions about her outfit: What color is her dress? What style is it-sleeves or strapless? What is her favorite flower and color of flower?

We decided on a red rose-his date's favorite flower, and asked for a wrist corsage to show of her manicure and resolve the issue of her strap line. I requested silver ribbon to coordinate with his silver vest.

Ordering his tux was a major feat. First of all, we travelled an hour to get to a men's shop. Next, not realizing they ordered their outfits, we prayed that it would arrive in time for a fitting and before the prom. His final choice was a black tux with a silver vest. I ordered a red rose for his boutonniere. The only glitch was with the dress shoes that came with it-they never arrived when we made the second trip down to claim the tux. The store ended up shipping them to us and they arrived the morning of the prom.

J brought his date to an Italian restaurant before the dance and they both enjoyed their special evening. This was one of the more expensive activities he participated in.

Senior Prom fees: Who pays for what?

Tux (rented)
Gown (borrowed or bought)
Boutonniere & Corsage
Dinner & tip out
Tip for dinner (optional)
Tickets for prom
Own ticket for prom
Photos at prom
shared cost of Prom Photo
Snack afterwards (optional)
Gas for car

Class of 2013

Senior High School Presentation
Senior High School Presentation | Source

Senior Project

One of the most important pieces of research the seniors needed to complete, before graduation, was the 'Senior Project'. This consisted of a research paper eight pages in length and cited correctly; at least 10 hours of volunteer work, to exemplify their involvement in their community; and a product they constructed that offered examples of their research topic.

Once the student completes the requirements a 'Community Evening' is held. Family members, friends and public figures stroll through the school viewing the seniors' finished projects and asking questions about their product. This is a prelude to the final step: The presentation in front of a panel of judges.

Because the judges consist primarily of faculty, a request is sent out to the parents, and community in general, to volunteer for adjudication. I've acted in the role of judge for two years and have enjoyed listening to the students present their speeches.

The presentation has to include a speech about their researched topic, a visual aid, and a question and answer period. It is also timed to keep the students within a certain time frame.

The purpose of this part of their English grade is to teach the students how to write a cited research paper. It is also to teach them to think outside the box when creating their product. And, lastly, it gives them a taste of public speaking. For those students who choose to continue with their education at a higher level, they will be better prepared for the many papers they will be required to write in college. Other students will have the experience of speaking to an audience about important subject matter.

My nephew's project and research paper was graded 100%. However, when he got up to speak his nerves got the better of him and he spoke too fast. All in all, he ended up with a high B on the presentation and was very pleased. This was a difficult challenge for someone who experiences social anxiety, so I was very proud of him.

Graduation from High School

Graduation is a happy celebration
Graduation is a happy celebration | Source

Graduation Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cap and GownWearing cords at graduation which signifies special recognition.Receiving a High School DiplomaCelebrating with familyGraduation Cake
Cap and Gown
Cap and Gown | Source
Wearing cords at graduation which signifies special recognition.
Wearing cords at graduation which signifies special recognition. | Source
Receiving a High School Diploma
Receiving a High School Diploma | Source
Celebrating with family
Celebrating with family | Source
Graduation Cake
Graduation Cake | Source

Graduation Day

Graduation day is the day parents, (and seniors), look forward when they enter high school. It is the end of a long journey that begins when one's child enters kindergarten. It is a journey of separation and independence and, though it is often a relief, it is also a day of joyful celebration-with a touch of sadness thrown in.

Although J did not start his journey with me in kindergarten, it was a tough, four years for all of us. He came to me as a confused, often angry, and dependent young man who had issues of unresolved grief, depression and anxiety.

When I set out on this journey with him I had a three goals in mind: create a more confident, independent young man, help him stay in touch with his emotions-and not act out on them, and get him to graduation day.

There were many obstacles that we had to overcome along the way. I used professional help when it was needed, and I made clear communication about the goals throughout the journey. When it was time to graduate our seats happened to be very close to his seating in the large auditorium. He inconspicuously wiped tears from his eyes, later stating he was overwhelmed with a sense of relief. I chuckled and reassured him that there was never any doubt in MY mind that he was not going to reach his goal.

However, we both realized the bittersweet end of the journey we had taken together. He felt it was the end of our ties-I reassured him that he would always be able to come home to visit and on school breaks, along with calling at any time.

In the end, I saw a young man who was willing and able to take the next step: college. Yes, it closes one storyline, and opens another. I wish him, and all the graduates, continued success.


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    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Vinya-thanks for your feedback. I hope those were happy times for you in high school. :)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal


      I enjoyed reading this interesting hub. You reminded me my high school days.


    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Mary-I am sure that you know only too well about the expenses of a senior! I didn't realize you still had one at this the last of the high school bunch? Great idea about the homemade invites. God bless you.

      Hi Jane, thank you for the comments and follow. It has been an amazing journey with him. Much different than my daughters, and one I had not expected to take again.

      Stephanie-you bet I know you're in the midst of the same think I am in. Even with all of the hassles we've encountered, I feel grateful that I had the opportunity to offer him a different life. Many blessings to you in your efforts to do the same for your granddaughter. :) BTW-I'm back to work finally, so we will have to set a date to meet when it warms up a bit on one of my days off.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      As you know, we are also in the middle of senior year with our granddaughter who lives with us. Whew! It is expensive! It does seem that the various companies are out to drain the kids and parents of every spare cent as they make all that stuff like key rings, framed tassels, etc. look so enticing in the brochures. We also passed on most of it, but had to get the T-shirt and hoodie and invitations. :)

      You gave a good overview of what to expect, and you did a great job of documenting the important moments in J's senior year! How nice that he will have these photos and your hub as a keepsake!

    • profile image

      Jane Holmes 

      8 years ago

      A great hub. That senior year is such a time of change for our young adults. But, the memories are sweet - you and he will cherish them forever. Vote Up and will follow!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      8 years ago from Florida

      I have a 17yr. old son who will graduate next year. I have fond memories of my other 4 girls when they graduated. They almost broke me buying all the stuff you mentioned! The invitations, the ring, etc.etc. although one of my girls made some beautiful invitations on the computer that saved me some money.

      I sure wish your J. much luck and good fortune in his life ahead.

      Voted UP, and shared.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Danette-Yeah, you said a mouthful! Whew...I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel...or is that an oncoming train? LOL

      Hi Randi-thanks for reading. I teased J the other day about 'being lucky to have me' and he actually got quiet and said, "yes" Hmmm maybe something is sinking in after all this time. LOL

      Hi Nancy-EXPENSIVE is the word. I haven't gotten info yet on the cost of the cap and gown or the senior trip next spring...Thanks for commenting.

      Frank--I know you aren't always the 'funny man', haha. (you just happen to have a great sense of humor). Thanks for reading and the vote. :)

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      8 years ago from Shelton

      You know Denise this is a useful and wonderful guide.. jokes.. right? voted useful :)

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Never realized the expenses part. Our school gave us the option to sell things in exchange for these items.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      8 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Beautiful, comprehensive hub. A must read for anyone with a high schooler. What a great aunt you are, Denise! How lucky (and adorable!) J is to have you! Great hub! Up+

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      8 years ago from Illinois

      Good info here about some of the expenses and expectations of the senior year. I know it's been a long journey for you and J.

      Like you, my kids were required to pay for their own class ring if they wanted one (they passed) but I really like how the senior pics are done now with the accessories and changes of clothes. CJ got one with his truck (his version of man's best friend I guess). Voted up


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