“I Want Them To Have Everything I Had:” Oakland Teacher Crowdfunds To Save Seniors' Prom

If compassion were currency, East Oakland's Castlemont High School would be one of the wealthiest schools around thanks to 12th grade English teacher Elle Jones.

Unfortunately for Castlemtont, in the real world, the only currency is currency and the school's resources are limited.

It is nothing close to what Jones says the experience was like graduating from a much better funded high school Cupertino.

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"I compare my high school experience to the experience my students here at Castlemont have and it's so different as to be ridiculous," Jones said.

Jones says the school is getting help, though. It was recently designated an "Intensive Support School" by the district and has received an influx of funds. That money, however, is destined to be spent on basics, like new technology, to help the students academically.

Extras, like a prom, are not on the list.

"It's not a priority when you have other things that are so much more important.

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Still, Jones, a first-year teacher at Castlemont, thinks it is important the Class of 2016 has a celebration worthy of their accomplishment. Jones believes they deserve it.

"I want them to have everything I had," Jones said.

So, when Jones heard that, due to lack of resources, the Senior prom at Castlemont might simply be just a dance in the school gym to which Freshmen and Sophomores were invited, that just wouldn't do.

Jones says some Seniors have been cashing in recycling and holding bake sales to raise money, but it wasn't looking like it was going to be enough.

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"You might see a really unfortunate prom on a TV show where it's in the gym with streamers ... and there's no band or DJ, just a person on a laptop. That totally could have been what it could have been like," Jones said.

In order to make sure that doesn't happen, Jones has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help Seniors afford a celebration to remember.

Enough money has been raised so far to put a deposit down on a ballroom at an Oakland hotel. Still, there is the matter or decorations, food, and music. Jones, who will chaperone the event, wants those to be perfect too.

"It matters to me because it matters to them. I love these kids. I’m a teacher because I care so deeply for these students," Jones said.

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