Project Graduation gives seniors fun, safe send-off

When the class of 2010 at Heritage High School was preparing to graduate this past spring, a group of about 75 of them opted to party at the very school they were preparing to leave.

It was all part of Project Graduation, an initiative that offers graduates a place to celebrate, but to celebrate safely. The first Project Graduation was held in Maine in 1980.

Heritage High School staff put on their first Project Graduation event on May 14. English teacher Karen Rice, along with others, helped organize the event. From 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., students and teachers played games, watched movies and even held a manicure and pedicure time. Both girls and guys participated, Rice said.

Rice said about 75 students attended the event, and there were enough door prizes for everyone to take something home.

“Almost everything was donation based,” Rice said. “The kids really loved it. There were grab bags made up for them, filled with coupons from Sonic, McDonalds and tons of free-items. Blount Memorial Hospital also provided informational packets regarding drunk driving.”

Besides being a hit with the students, principal Earl McMahan praised the event, saying it was a very noble thing to provide a safe and fun place for the seniors to be.

Rice said that from radio-station Star 102.1 donating CDs and prizes to Red Bull giving away 10 cases of Red Bull, the night was full of energetic entertainment. The Cosmetology department from Heritage did manicures and pedicures for the students and by midnight, the games on the Wii had begun, she said.

Rice said she hopes to hold the event again in Spring, 2011.

“I’d love to make it bigger and better than this year. I hope that since we are planning far enough in advance, we can find ways for others to donate some other items such as a laptop or even maybe a car,” she said.

There were several chaperones, some parents and some teachers on hand. Rice said, “I suppose just from seeing it in a different perspective, the kids simply loved being in the school at night.”

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