“Project Graduation has become much more than an event that occurs on graduation night. It is a communitywide planning process that strives to create a caring, supportive environment and more open communication between youths and adults,” according to the original organizers of this event in Oxford, Maine. They set the example nationwide of drug and alcohol free celebration back in 1980, and it has been ongoing across the U.S. ever since.
What makes Project Graduation unique is the attitude of the students. Recognizing that they have to accept responsibility for their safety and make their own choices, the seniors involved have made a conscious decision to enjoy their graduation night without getting drunk or high.
Supportive Vicksburg parents of high school seniors have been planning an all-night event for the day of graduation since the early 1990s. It is a costly endeavor because students and parents pay for large coaches that transport the participating class members and chaperones to a secret location for a full night of activities, then safely bringing them home in the early morning hours. Nationwide, accidents related to drinking, drugging, and driving have been reduced considerably during the weeks before and after graduation, according to the National Traffic Safety Highway Administration.
Parents planning the chemical free event change each year in Vicksburg. They start organizing in the fall and work all school year toward raising a goal of $15,000 to $17,000 needed to finance the event. Students themselves who participate pay $100 each per ticket but can see that reduced by putting in two hours or more of volunteer time for the cause.
“It gives kids a safe way to celebrate graduation. It may be the last time they see each other and it is supervised in order to keep kids out of cars and to support those who graduate,” says this year’s Project Graduation chairperson in Vicksburg, Garrett Ervin. “There is something for everyone participating. We are working hard to draw in more students and build it up as something very special to travel to a secret location and be treated like royalty, but have your friends along for the ride.”
Fundraising gets an all-out push from September 2014 through May 2015, says Michelle Morgan who has been instrumental in staging the November craft show at Sunset Lake School where they raised about $4,200 toward the goal. Other fundraisers include:
- Working the concession stands at WMU’s football games (Jane Mulder, chair)
- Selling t-shirts and sweat shirts sale the Bulldog logo
- Selling Abby candle ($1,800 in profit to date)
- Hosting a profit-donation night at Culver’s on Westnedge in March (student volunteers will wait tables)
- Raffling off a quilt made by Audrie Callahan with help from Tanya DeLong of the Girl Garage where it hangs and customers can purchase tickets
- Doing a car wash in the spring
- Taking donations in red canisters at participating Vicksburg stores
- Collecting pop cans for deposit return
- Organizing a Euchre tournament set for Sat., Jan. 17 at the Allen-Edwin clubhouse at $25 per person—call Tracie White, chair, to sign up at 649-0759.
The Project Graduation committee hopes the community will get behind the effort by attending the fundraisers or sending money that will be used for prizes and other incidentals on the night of Sunday, May 31, when the class of 2015 will sail off into the sunset from the parking lot at Vicksburg High School.