Bear Creek takes pride in its diverse range of clubs, sports and other after-school activities that are available to all of its student population. What’s even better is that all activities are free to join — at least they appear to be. Whether it be club entry fees or expensive uniform purchases, students say they often feel the financial stress of participation in seemingly low-price school extracurriculars.
Most clubs have an “entry fee,” a small cost required to join the club that is used as a means of funding club activities. While these fees may can seem minor, they are usually not the only cost of participating in a club. Club T-shirts or International Carnival outfits range from $10 to $30 and are often highly recommended or even required purchases.
Senior Adonis Budhai recounts his experiences making ends meet to pay for after-school activities despite his parents’ lack of financial support.
“My parents don’t support me on these type of things and it makes me sad,” Budhai said. “It always… caused me to drop out of clubs. This year, I am trying to get help from other people, but it is really hard to do so.”
This week, [BC Latinos] sent us a message saying we have to pay for a $30 shirt. They also need the money by Friday… some of us can’t really afford it.”
Clubs aren’t the only cash culprits; during preparations for the Winterfest rally, Link Crew leader Eyan Atad was confronted by several students who claimed they did not have enough money to pay for the junior class T-shirt, which was $20 and purchase was recommended for the class dance to make the performance look uniform.
“A lot of people were struggling and I mentioned it to the junior assembly members, and they were really nice about it and asked people to directly contact them,” Atad said. “A lot of people felt they didn’t have a say.”
Junior class President Jazlyn Bo, who was in charge of distributing shirts, said that students had an opportunity to lower their costs.
“Those who had expressed to us that they couldn’t pay [the $20] paid $15, and one person paid $10,” Bo said.
Although some club costs may seem gargantuan or unfair, they can pale in comparison to the expenses of some sports. For the 2018-2019 school year, the Lodi Unified School District (LUSD) gave the athletic department $32,500 for transportation costs, such as busses to competitions, and $24,000 for safety measures and repairs. However, these figures do not fully cover the roughly $135,000 it takes to fund athletics.
To cover costs, Athletic Director Jason Johnson says the athletic department uses Bear Creek Athletics merchandise purchases, game snack bar purchases and ticket money — roughly 55 percent of which comes from football game gates — to support athletic ventures.
However, coaches, kids and parents are still forced to scrounge for money — Johnson says he has often personally cleaned the bleachers to avoid paying for custodial overtime and asks family and friends to volunteer at games.
Many after-school activities also fundraise to lower costs for participants. One of the more costly sports is cheerleading. Junior Maya Peyton recalls $489 paying for her uniform, and another $30 for hair bows — the costs continued with $160 warmups, a $90 sublimated bag and $90 cheer camp; to offset expenses, the team held a cookie dough fundraiser, but she still ran short of money.
“I worked the election in June and tutored my neighbor so that I could pay for my warmups,” Peyton said. “I want to spend my money on other things like spending time with my friends, but I couldn’t because I was trying to save [for cheer expenses] instead of spend.”
Johnson says LUSD should support all extracurriculars as many local school districts do, such as Elk Grove School District, which pays in full for all after-school activities. At Bear Creek, in the case that a student can’t pay for a uniform, the student or coach must scramble to cover the costs with no set guidelines of what to do.
“A rule of our school is that we try to make athletics a truly no cost venture, which means that no child is going to be denied the opportunity to participate because of lack of resources,” Johnson said. “We live in a competitive world and we have a responsibility to provide the resources and opportunities for our kids to compete and be successful in the world beyond ours.”