As P-CEP high school seniors approach graduation, the standards for cord distribution remain ambiguous at the Park


Mia Grim

NHS Board members celebrate as they receive their cords and stoles to wear at graduation.

Receiving graduation cords is an event that many high school students look forward to as they approach the end of the school year and graduation commencement. Wearing a cord at graduation symbolizes time and effort put towards a club or extracurricular activity, accomplishment within that organization and the leadership role a student takes to be a part of that organization.

However, as many students look forward to being recognized for their efforts in their various organizations, many other students feel that their work goes unnoticed because they do not receive a cord.  For as many clubs that are awarded a cord, there are many more clubs that go unrecognized.

At the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park (P-CEP), a certain few clubs and organizations are permitted to award students with a cord to wear at graduation to honor their work in the club. 

The idea of cords was adopted from college graduation ceremonies which award students for their time and energy spent in an extracurricular activity or department. Many of the cords at college ceremonies have colors that symbolize the honor that each cord represents. For example, a gold cord symbolizes an academic achievement.

The P-CEP clubs that award graduation cords include National Honor Society (NHS), Congress (student government), Thespians, the yearbook staff and the class student councils.

A survey was sent out to all P-CEP staff members by a guest writer for The Perspective on May 14, 2022, to obtain their opinions on which clubs, classes or organizations should or should not receive graduation cords.

Out of the 88 staff members that responded to the survey, NHS was most frequently named as the organization that should earn a cord for graduation, with 76 staff members making the claim. Behind NHS, 55 staff members answered that Student Congress should receive a cord and 53 respondents believed that the class student councils deserve a cord.

In the survey, many teachers suggested that more clubs should be awarded a cord that currently do not receive one, including Health Occupations Students of America, Distributive Educative Clubs of America, Lightning Robotics and Math Olympiad Team.

In response to the survey, staff members offered their suggestions for cord distribution among classes, clubs and organizations. 

One staff member anonymously expressed, “I think any club, etc. that feels their members are worthy of a cord should be allowed to present them!”

Other solutions were proposed in responses to the survey, such as establishing a universal cord for students who were involved in any extracurricular activity, giving students a cord for receiving an award at Honors Convocation Night or giving cords only to people who were elected as officers of their clubs.

Many staff members also responded that students involved in hands-on, leadership classes should also be awarded a cord in addition to the clubs and extracurricular activities that currently receive a cord. Staff members were in favor of students in Restaurant Operations: Hospitality & Culinary Arts (Rock Cafe) and Educational Foundations (Kiddie Kampus) classes to receive a graduation cord.

Currently, no academy, including International Baccalaureate (IB), the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy (STEM) or the Arts Academy officially honors students with a cord or sash to be worn at any of P-CEP’s commencement exercises.

Dr. Sean Jackman, the coordinator of the Arts Academy, explained the reason the students of the Arts Academy receive a graduation cord.

“We have our own separate graduation ceremony for the Arts Academy. I think that because we have a ceremony, we need cords that the students can wear at the all school graduation because we don’t have any other form of recognition.”

Numerous staff members responded that they feel that the current state of cord distribution at P-CEP does not need to be changed. 41 of the 88 staff members that completed the survey responded that P-CEP should not award graduation cords to any more clubs or activities.

Another staff member anonymously proposed, “If we award cords for some clubs, activities and classes, every club, activity and class will feel the need to have a cord as well. The cords should be kept sacred. It should not be for everyone that wants it.” 

The anonymous staff respondent continued: “Although some of the aforementioned classes, clubs and academies are noble and should be recognized, what makes one club eligible for a cord and not another? I say keep it simple and stick with just honor students and high achievers that have worked really hard to earn those honors. Whereas, someone else in a club with non-honors grades gets a cord because they were in a club.”

Many staff members who responded to the survey feel that the amount of cords that have been distributed or have been requested has gotten to an overwhelming amount and thus makes earning a cord meaningless. Several staff members expressed that they felt that giving cords out to every club that applied for one makes cords too accessible and defeats the purpose of cords being bestowed as an honor. These respondents felt that the number of clubs that receive cords should not be expanded to keep the prestigious nature of earning a cord.

Another group of staff members who responded to the survey felt that cords are not necessary to give to club members, but was in favor of students receiving the honor because the cord makes the students feel recognized and appreciated.

Jay Obsniuk, adviser of the P-CEP’s Lightning Robotics, said, “We applied to wear cords and we were turned down. If we win something big like in 2017 when we were world champions, then yes, we should get recognition, but I’m fine with not being mentioned. People are not at commencement to hear about robotics, but it does make the students feel good.”

Katie Ruffner, Canton High School senior, got involved in many clubs throughout her time in high school including Congress and NHS; she also created her own club: the Politics & Economics Club.

Ruffner felt the distinction of wearing a cord should be expanded to more clubs.

 “I think I like the idea of earning cords because it shows that you were involved in something at the school,” said Ruffner.

Ruffner recognizes the honor of a cord should be limited to only certain clubs.

“I understand that not all clubs can earn a cord, but some clubs, like Politics & Economics don’t do as much for the school,” Ruffner continued. “I think clubs that actually benefit the school, like Congress, which plans homecoming, should earn one.”

Montyne Barbee, Canton High School assistant principal, said that the distribution of cords creates an equity issue. 

“If somebody is drowning in cords, does that diminish the student that has worked just as hard to get their diploma but couldn’t be in an after school activity?” asked Barbee. “It’s an equity issue, and has been in the past. That is the roadblock with clubs.”

Barbee also said that there is no determined standard that a club must meet in order for members to receive a cord.

 “It is my understanding that the criteria for what clubs are recognized cannot be agreed upon,” said Barbee. “It has been everything from community service hours to GPA to time in the club or work that the club does. Over the years, we have discussed going with only nationally recognized, but I don’t think that the criteria has been agreed upon.”Without having a predetermined criteria for the clubs that receive cords, and without agreement about what the criteria to award an honor cord ought to be, no movement to add more clubs or organizations to the existing list of groups that receive cords has been made.

The students of Salem High School, Plymouth High School and Canton High School will participate in commencement exercises, each group with its own ceremony, on Sunday, June 12 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in the George Gervin GameAbove Center, formerly known as the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center.



The original survey sent to the staff  contained an error. The IB program and the STEM academy do not award cords for graduation. The Perspective staff apologizes for the error.