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Serbian High-School Students Trade Prom for Charity

As proof of the awareness and understanding of economic hardship that young people have today, a graduating high school class from the town of Pirot in southern Serbia made a deeply responsible and humane decision.

Back in October 2012, the 4th-year students of Pirot High School (Pirotska Gimnazija) calculated that they would have to spend some 500 Euros on average to buy dresses, suits and everything that goes with that for their graduating prom. They decided this was far too much to spend on one night that wouldn't mean a lot to them in the future. Together, and with the support of their teachers, parents and others, they vowed to wear plain black (for the boys) and white (for the girls) T-shirts to their prom and to give the money they would have spent to three children with disabilities in their community instead.

The graduating class of Pirot High School in front of their school on the day of their graduation.

The graduating class of Pirot High School in front of their school on the day of their graduation. Photo courtesy of “Tvojih pet minuta sjaja – Nečiji ceo život”

They named their event Your Five Minutes of Glory – Someone's Entire Life and set out to raise funds for Predrag Potić, a 12-year-old with cerebral palsy, 1-year-old Mateja Lazarević who has had seven surgeries so far, and Čeda Tošić, a five-year-old who also suffers from cerebral palsy and, after a recent surgery, has begun to walk.

The exemplary graduates explain [sr] on their Facebook page [sr]:

Није нам било лако, нарочито када су одмицали дани и схватали озбиљност овакве организације. Настала је, истовремено, као жеља да се помогне некоме и бунт против кича који је захватио наше друштво. Новац је сакупљан уплатама ученика и запослених у Гимназији, захваљујући донаторима[...] као и неких добрих људи, и сакупили смо 310 000 динара.

It wasn't easy, especially as the days went by and we realized the gravity of this kind of organization. At the same time, there was a desire to help someone and a rebellion against the kitch that has taken over our society. Money was collected through donations from students and employees of the [Pirot] High School, thanks to donors [...] as well as some good people, and we have collected 310,000 Dinars [approx. 2,800 Euros].

Serbian online media and social networks are, of course, overflowing with awe, respect and salutes for the extraordinary graduating class of Pirot High School. As Mondo webportal reports [sr], the graduates held a small ceremony at their high school on Friday to deliver the funds they raised to the three boys, Pedja, Matej, and Čeda, after which they proudly walked, hand-in-hand and in pairs, down the town's main street in the black-and-white T-shirts they promised they would wear to their graduating prom. A donor helped them have special T-shirts made for this occasion, with “Your Five Minutes of Glory – Someone's Entire Life” printed on them.

Applauded by so many in Serbia and other countries, the students remain humble and intend to continue their humanitarian efforts. In the same post from June 2 on their Facebook page, they say:

Нажалост нисмо успели да сакупимо планирану суму од 500 000 динара, али смо успели да измамимо сузе Матеиним родитељима, свима присутнима у свечаној сали Гимназије, па и нама самима… А касније смо се ипак сви смејали. :)

Пробајте и ви, измамите неком осмех, не боли. Не сматрамо себе неким великим људима, хуманитарцима, пуно је таквих који то заиста и заслужују. Ово је далеко одјекнуло(то нам није био циљ, нити смо се надали томе), али ће се заборавити генерација 1994 пиротских матураната. Верујемо да ће нас се некад сећати, уз осмех, само Матеа, Чеда и Пеђа, остало нам није ни битно.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to raise the planned sum of 500 000 Dinars, but we succeeded in bringing tears to the eyes of Mateja's parents, all those present at the Event Hall of the high school, and to our own eyes… And later we all ended up laughing. :)

You should try it too, bring a smile to someone, it doesn't hurt. We don't consider ourselves great people, humanitarians, there are many who truly deserve [to be called] that. This has echoed far (this was not our goal, nor could we hope for it), but the generation of 1994 from Pirot High School will be forgotten. We believe we will only be remembered sometimes, with a smile, by Mateja, Čeda and Pedja, we don't care about the rest.

One-year-old Matija with his mother at the ceremony in Pirot High School. Photo courtesy of  "Tvojih pet minuta sjaja - Nečiji ceo život"

1-year-old Mateja with his mother at the ceremony at Pirot High School. Photo courtesy of “Tvojih pet minuta sjaja – Nečiji ceo život”

The students who believe they “will be forgotten” also invite high school students from other Serbian cities to join their cause and follow in their footsteps. They have already become an Internet meme in Serbia and word is spreading fast to neighboring countries as well. User Leteći medvjedić on the Serbian meme site Vukajlija has created a poster [sr] on this site that is being shared massively on Facebook and Twitter. The poster shows a photo of the graduating class of Pirot High School walking down the main street – and this caption:

Oni su položili – ispit zrelosti

They have passed – the test of maturity

More photos and posts are available on their Facebook page and Twitter account.

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