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Fun and practical high school graduation gifts

May 15, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the class of 2021 had perhaps one of the most unusual senior years in history. 

They navigated distance learning and hybrid schedules, missed out on extracurricular activities, and mourned missed milestones, such as homecoming games and senior prom.

Graduation season officially kicks off in May. Whether the ceremony is held outdoors following updated CDC guidelines, or is virtual, the class of 2021 deserves to be celebrated. 

Here’s a gift guide that balances both fun and practical ideas graduates will love as they head off to college or into the working world.

The Ballast inflatable beach pillow
Courtesy of Ballast

Ballast: For high school graduates, it’s officially the last summer before life changes and they start a new chapter. There’s no better way to relax and recharge than by soaking up some sun at the beach, especially when some indoor activities are still off limits. Ballast is a weighted pillow that won’t blow away. It also deflates into a small carry-on bag for easy packing, making it a must-have essential for this summer, and, of course, when college spring break rolls around next year. SRP: $35, with three color options.

The Dagsmejan sleep mask
Courtesy of Dagsmejan

Dagsmejan: It’s time to dream big! Graduation is an exciting milestone, not only because it celebrates the graduates’ hard work, but also because it’s a time for them to pursue their dreams. This lightweight, breathable sleep mask from Dagsmejan sends the perfect message to the world while the graduate is getting some well-deserved rest: “Dreaming big!” SRP: $39

Kengos lace-up, plant-based sneakers
Courtesy of Kengos

Kengos: For the high school grad on the go—Kengos offers supercomfortable, eco-friendly sneakers that are made from plants. While the shoes are long-lasting, they can be taken apart and recycled at the end of their use, making them an ideal gift for a new grad who is passionate about the environment and loves fashion. The shoes come in five colors (white, black, gray, orange, and navy) and are available in men’s sizes eight to 13 and women’s sizes six to 11. SRP: $98

The Filtrete Smart Air Purifier for medium-size rooms
Courtesy of Filtrete

Filtrete: This latest device supplements users’ smart home ecosystem by sending individualized readings straight to their smartphone. The Filtrete Smart Air Purifier detects, records, and alerts users to spikes in poor indoor air quality, enabling them to track this data through the Filtrete Smart App. These insights show consumers how their activities can have an impact on their homes’ air quality—as well as actionable steps they can take to improve it. The True HEPA Filter can capture 99.97% of airborne particles passing through. The smart home technology connects with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple’s Siri to manage indoor air quality; features an automated fan that kicks in when particles are detected; and allows for seamless replacement ordering. SRP: $275

The Fix-It Kit
Courtesy of Uncommon Goods

Uncommon Goods: Moving away from family means many graduates will have to start from scratch when it comes to buying the necessities, including tools. Uncommon Goods has the perfect starter set for new grads, including a flashlight, screwdriver, pliers, and hammer—all packaged into a portable carrying case. This is one gift that will make their next step into the world of adulting even easier. SRP: $30

A key chain that, when double pressed, sends an alert with your GPS location to your loved ones and 911.
Courtesy of InvisaWear

InvisaWear: These smart key chains, bracelets, necklaces, and fitness accessories are everyday items a graduate will love wearing, but the true gift is peace of mind for them and their parents. Each item includes a smart button that, when double-tapped, can trigger a number of different options for people who feel they’re in danger. When the item is paired with the smartphone app, the two taps can set off a phone alarm and trigger a text message to trusted contacts with the person’s exact GPS location. When paired with an ADT subscription, the graduate has 24/7 access to ADT agents, who can stay on the line with them as they walk to their car or alert authorities, if needed. SRP: Ranges from $129 to $249, depending on the item. $19.99 per month for the ADT subscription.

You can personalize Away suitcases through its corporate gifting program.
Courtesy of Away

Away: Whether moving into a dormitory or setting off on a gap year, graduates will need luggage for their next big adventure. Away’s hard case luggage pieces are available in a variety of colors. Each suitcase comes with a limited lifetime warranty that covers any damage to the shell, wheels, handles, zippers, and other functional elements of the luggage, making this a gift that is built to last through college and beyond. SRP: Starts at $225; prices vary by size.

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