Tri-State foundation raises $50,000 to help students get their diplomas

Hundreds of students were at risk of not receiving their diplomas on graduation day due to unpaid fees.
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 5:46 PM EDT|Updated: May. 12, 2023 at 8:03 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A Tri-State foundation raised $50,000 that will go to helping ensure hundreds of Cincinnati Public Schools students get their diplomas on graduation day.

Hundreds of students were at risk of not graduating and receiving their diplomas on graduation day due to unpaid fees.

Those who are eligible to graduate would still be permitted to participate in all graduation day activities including walking across the stage on graduation day, wearing their full cap and gown.

Their diplomas would be mailed to them once fees were paid.

FOX19 NOW’s Kendall Hyde first reported the story last week about the graduation day jeopardy some students were facing.

Now, just one week later, the Butts Family Foundation managed to raise $50,000 to help those students who needed to pay their school fees.

Marvin Butts is the owner of Pendleton-based Mr. Bubbles.

He is a pillar of his community, and back in 1977, he was in a similar situation when it came time to graduate high school.

Butts says he was getting ready to graduate from Hughes High School when a man with a clipboard approached him.

“He’s walking around to every student whose name is on this clipboard, and he came to me,” Butts recalls. “‘Mr. Butts, your name is on the clipboard.’ I asked what that meant. ‘You still owe $35 in fees.’”

Butts said he had never heard of a student fee, but luckily, his big sister was there to pay his remaining balance.

“Because if she didn’t pay my fee, I would have got the thing the diploma is in, but it’s going be empty,” Butts explained.

Students’ fees go towards activities like field trips and needed classroom materials like books, tablets, pens, and paper.

If the fees are not paid before graduation, the student can attend graduation, but they will only receive their diploma or transcript once the balance is paid off.

Butts says that moment stuck with him for more than 40 years.

When he realized it was still an issue for local students, Butts started the Bridge the Gap campaign.

“I jumped into action, and I’m going to do what I can to get these fees paid,” Butts said.

More than 400 students had student fee debts totaling more than $10,000.

In just one week, the Bridge the Gap campaign raised more than $50,000 thanks to the generosity of the community.

“There are people who don’t even know these 400-plus kids never met them,” Butts explained. “Do you know what I told everybody? I said, ‘Look, you made an investment in a kid’s future that could consequently, at your old age, be your caregiver or your Uber Eats driver.”

Butts says he wants to thank everyone who donated and says his next step is to find out how can he help students keep these fees as low as possible.

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