The letter jacket, the class ring, and a prom-night limo aren't enough. Add professionally printed yard signs to the high school senior's must-have list.
Banners pop up like honeysuckle in late May around the Atlanta suburbs.
Most bricked-and-gated entrances to subdivisions hold at least one sign listing seniors who live inside, sometimes several because students don't want to share. Churches put signs up for youth-group graduates. Parents put them on lawns.
"I'm very big on the sign thing," says Emily Urquhart, a Lawrenceville senior who admits she pestered her unwilling parents to order a $90 sign for her and some subdivision friends. "All my friends had one, and we didn't have one."
After waging a short campaign of resistance, mom Linda Urquhart caved in. She tacked another item on the already-expensive tab for graduation pomp: pictures, parties, the $50 video yearbook.
"I think it's a status thing, tell you the truth," she says of the sign. "I think it's unnecessary. No, I think it's ridiculous. But there's so much pressure on the parents. You don't want your child to be the one who didn't get what everybody else did."
The signs vary from $20 yard markers to 10-foot-wide banners listing seniors in a subdivision, a team, or marching band.
"What [sign companies] have done is make these consumer products, like balloons," says Wade Swormstedt, editor and publisher of Signs of the Times magazine in Cincinnati. "Then, all of a sudden, it's a bandwagon thing, a vanity kind of thing."
The graduation signs took off because people hardly know their neighbors, he says, much less their neighbors' kids.
Graduate Mark Davis says the signs make people feel good, "like you accomplished something. Like it's finally over."
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor