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Show them the money

May 19, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

When Hagerstown Community College student Cassandra Pugh graduated from Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, Md., in 1997, her father wrote her a poem to commemorate the occasion.

The poem and such keepsakes as photos of her high school friends and a journal to chronicle her transition into college proved to be Pugh's most memorable graduation gifts, she said.

HCC student Yvette Kebe won't ever forget her graduation trip to Trinidad, she said.

HCC freshman Ashley Cosey liked the jewelry she received upon graduating from Chambersburg (Pa.) Area Senior High School in 2002 - but she loved the cash she got on graduation day.

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That $2,500 "paid for my whole first semester," said Cosey, 19. "It was great."

Fellow HCC students Donielle Maloy and Allison Porter, both 2002 graduates of North Hagerstown High School, agreed that money is the way to go for graduation gift-givers.

Maloy's graduation money covered her college book costs and part of her tuition, she said. Porter put her graduation cash in her savings account for a laptop computer, she said.

More creative gift givers might consider airline tickets, luggage, personalized scrapbooks, artwork or baskets filled with dorm room essentials - but ever-practical cash topped the graduation gift wish lists of most local high school seniors interviewed recently.

"Definitely cash," said Ciara Fisher, 17, who will attend Towson (Md.) University this fall after graduating from Washington County Technical High School in June.

Ciara and her classmate, Amanda Mellott, were among many local students who said graduation money would help them pay for books, food and other college-related expenses. Amanda, 17, also would welcome a "college survival kit" with items such as food and a rain poncho to help her adjust to life at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, she said.

Terry Jones, 17, wants money to help with the payments on his new pickup while he's attending classes at James Rumsey Technical Institute in Hedgesville, W.Va., after he graduates from South Hagerstown High School next month, he said.

South High senior Mike Moyseenko, 18, wouldn't mind some cash to help with his truck payment while he's in school, he said. He's also asked family members for a laptop computer to help with his studies at the University of Maryland College Park.

Classmate Susan Lewis, 17, also asked her grandmother for a laptop computer to take with her to High Point University in North Carolina this fall, she said.

South High seniors Cheryl Sheffler, 18, and Abbey Ross, 17, would love to slip behind the steering wheels of new cars on graduation day - but they'd also be pleased with cash to help pay for the first two years of school at Hagerstown Community College, they said.

"I know I'm not going to get the car," Abbey said, "and I'm paying for college myself."

Steven Bishop, 18, is hoping for cash for a new car to help him get to and from his auto mechanic classes at Lincoln Technical Institute in Columbia, Md., after he graduates from Washington County Technical High School in June, he said.

He isn't too optimistic about his chances, but graduating senior Jeffrey Reece, 18, would love to receive a new Pontiac Formula Firebird to mark the end of his technical high school career and the beginning of his service with the U.S. Marine Corps, he said.

Chelsea Milburn, 17, already has picked out her four-wheeled graduation gift. And she said her father plans to wrap a big ribbon around the Honda Prelude before she drives it away after graduating from the technical high school.

New compact disc players for their cars would be music to the ears of fellow graduating seniors Amanda Mowen, 17, and Tramaine Beck, 18. Amanda, who plans to attend Hagerstown Community College, and Tramaine, who will go to Hagerstown Business College, would get a lot of use out of their new toys as they traveled to and from school, they said.

Classmate Miranda Flowers, 18, would be thrilled with an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico, she said.

Cars, cash, electronics and vacation packages sound good to many graduating seniors but technical high school student Marie Kirkpatrick, 18, is thinking even bigger.

"I want my own place to live - an apartment, a house or a trailer," she said.

Elizabeth M. Morgan, superintendent of Washington County public schools, suggests cell phones and phone cards to encourage college freshmen to call home. Such small appliances as miniature refrigerators and popcorn makers also make good gifts for graduates who will be living on their own or in dorms for the first time, Morgan said.

She's planning a more personal gift for her daughter, Raquel, who is graduating from Middletown (Md.) High School in June. Morgan is having a quilt made from Raquel's favorite T-shirts and running team jerseys to "warm her inside and out" at college, she said.

The Internet also boasts many graduation gift ideas, including oversized "Jungle Roses" offered for $147 per dozen at www.wealthwood.com, personalized teddy bears for $35 to $40 each at www.lilbearshoppe.com and customized cartoon strips at www.treasuredkeepsakes.com.

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