“Well, theater is just a really open experience for me," senior Spencer Payton said. "It gives me a chance to meet new people and try new things."
Sophomore Heath Thompson mentioned that theater is just one of the wide variety of programs that students can join at his high school.
“We have fencing, we have theater, we have different art programs, all sorts of things," he said. "But I think parts we can improve is a lot of the funding aspects, which I think is where [Machine Gun Kelly]’s donation becomes so important."
He was referring to a donation from arguably one of the high school’s most famous alums, Colson Baker. On stage, Baker raps under the name Machine Gun Kelly. According to Marrow Fine founder and designer, Jillian Sassone, a diamond-filled manicure that the celebrity rocked at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards is connected to a major donation that benefitted the Shaker Schools Foundation.
“We used about 880 diamonds on his manicure, which actually equated to about $30,000 worth of diamonds," she said. "So we were able to utilize those. Now, he wore them all night. He was at all these parties. So, of course, some of the diamonds fell out, right? Whatever was left, and it wasn't a lot ... but whatever was left, we were able to reclaim those.”
Sassone said she was able to repurpose those diamonds for good.
“I designed an 18-piece capsule with jewelry with those diamonds and utilized those," she said. "Then we sold those on our website and 100% of the proceeds went to the Shaker Heights [High] School, which ended up being $43,450."
It’s money that senior Laila Christian said she wants to see the school system spend and spread wisely.
“I personally want to see the money used for funding more of our arts programs because that's what I do at the school," she said. "It's really important to me. Also funding the school mental health resources. I feel like they have a lot of potential. We have a lot of students who are struggling.”
Freshman Amani Smith was interested in offering up a sportier suggestion for the donation’s distribution.
“Probably better resources for all of our sports teams because I’m a part of the Raiders, and I cheer." Smith said. "So, probably something to fund more stuff for us."
Regardless of where the money ends up, senior Josh Mink thought it was motivating that Machine Gun Kelly wanted to give back to his alma mater.
“It also inspires me to go on and do successful things in the future, especially as an artist like [Machine Gun Kelly]," Mink said. "He is so passionate and he's unapologetically himself, and that inspires me to be a stronger artist and a stronger person myself."
Although Payton is scheduled to graduate at the end of the school year, she said she’s thankful knowing that future students will have a chance to see a change at her school.
“I do plan on coming back in five or 10 years just to see how things have changed," she said. "I really hope that with this generous donation that the programs and clubs and activities that might not have gotten attention in any other scenario will really flourish because of this very generous donation that he's given us."