Shakopee club helps financially-strapped students pay for graduation cap, gown

High school graduation is a rite of passage and Shakopee High School is a place that makes sure graduates get to experience their well-deserved pomp and circumstance.

Nine years ago, Heather Carlson was prepared to miss all of it and remembers being sad that she would not walk with her class.

My senior year of high school my mother passed away and my father entered rehab and our house was foreclosed on all within a month span of time,” Carlson said.

But, in those tough times entered a woman coincidentally named "Joy" who certainly spreads a lot of that.

“Back in 2008 my daughter was graduating and three of her friends were struggling financially,” Joy Newgard said.

Newgard raised money to help those three kids, and she’s been working to help more every year since.

“I'm going to tell you that for me, I graduated in 1986 from Shakopee High [School],” Newgard said. “My family didn't have a lot of money and I remembered that and I wanted to help those kids as much as I could.”

With the fundraising arm of the Shakopee Eagles Club, Graduates in Need will help 183 students pay for a cap, gown and yearbook this year.

Shakopee's principal knows the moment is too important to miss and eight years later, Heather Carlson is so thankful she had hers.

“I remember the laughter and running around and being crazy…and I would not have gotten that without Joy,” Carlson said.