Prom tickets, yearbooks, and graduation caps and gowns are all items that can add up fast for high school seniors, as teacher Tori Lee well knows.
Ms. Lee, 37, is dusting off her bicycle for a 2,000-mile trek down the West Coast in an effort to raise money for some of her students who otherwise would not be able to afford graduation purchases in coming years.
"I noticed that my students weren't participating, and it sparked my awareness," said Ms. Lee, an English-as-a-second-language and health teacher at Brea Olinda High School in Brea, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles.
This is her third long-range bike trip on behalf of students. Her first two trips, in 1993 and 1995, netted a total of around $8,600, most of which came from the Brea community
So far this spring, she has raised $3,500. She hopes to pull in $5,000.
Ms. Lee's adventure will start June 26 in Vancouver, British Columbia, and end about 10 weeks later at the U.S.-Mexican border. She will travel with three friends and a small trailer.
"It's neat--the whole idea of raising community awareness," Ms. Lee said in an interview last week.
She is soliciting pledges for as little as 2 cents a mile, or $40 total. All of the money that is raised goes into a fund for needy students. She will pay the $4,000 cost of making the trip out of her own pocket.
"I want the kids to know they're supported by the community, not just me," she said, adding, "I want [the community] to know that these kids are here."
Ms. Lee's efforts seem to be paying off. Community members are donating items like prom dresses, caps, and gowns, in addition to money.
"I have quite a following," she said. "I can't think of anything else I'd rather do."
If they are able, students put up at least 25 percent of the cost of the graduation items and senior activities, and Ms. Lee's fund pays for the rest. About 60 students have benefited from her treks, and she said the numbers are growing.
--ADRIENNE D. COLES email@example.com