Students prepare for a night of substance-free fun

Ashley Hughes

     Finally, the time is here seniors. After making it through the difficult high school years the senior class will finally wave goodbye to high school and head toward their futures. However, it doesn’t have to end here. For years, CPHS seniors have been celebrating graduation night at Project Graduation, an all night celebration for graduating seniors. This year, the annual festivities take place at Dave and Buster’s  June 5 at 10:30 PM and continue till 5:30 AM the following morning. The purpose of Project Graduation is to celebrate all of the seniors’ success in attaining that well-earned diploma. The party will include food, games, activities, prizes and much more.

     Project Graduation started in Maine in 1980, when eighteen people died during two graduation seasons due to alcohol related accidents. It was so popular that it spread among all fifty states. The name “Project Graduation” became a generic term for the substance -free and school sponsored parties that allow graduates to celebrate their success in a safe way.

     “Not all schools and communities have Grad Night Parties,” Cynthia LaBrake, President of the 2010 CPHS Project Graduation Board, said. “We are very fortunate in our community that so many adults, both parents and business owners, value and honor our graduates. The financial support we have gotten and the volunteer hours that have been committed are expressions of love and hope for the future.”

     An elected group of parent volunteers have been working all year to prepare this night to be one to remember. Although it is free for the students, Project Graduation costs about 100 dollars per student to fund the party. This includes use of the venue, food, activities and the prizes. Prizes include an iPad, nineteen color televisions, an E-reader, a GPS, iPods, gift cards, a Vera Bradley gift set and many other surprise giveaways. Activities include a performing hypnotist, sumo wrestling, a Velcro-wall and pool tables. A DJ will provide a variety of music and a rave will take place for a part of the night. All grads will be given an e-card for unlimited games and can redeem their game tickets for Dave and Buster’s prizes. There will be a buffet open all night, and unlimited soft drinks will be provided. The money for all of these activities was raised by an army of parent and student volunteers.

     “It is quite an honor and a privilege to be the recipient of the grad night party,” LaBrake said. “The Project Grad Committee has the mission of providing a safe, free grad night party to every graduate who wants to attend. We are looking forward to extending our love and best wishes to all CPHS graduates by providing a fun, memorable and safe event.”

      Fund-raising has been going on all year so that all seniors will be able to attend. The Legacy Bricks fund-raiser allows seniors to purchase memorial bricks for the CPHS alumni circle in front of the school. The bricks include the graduate’s name and graduation year on them and will on sale for 50 dollars throughout May. Another fund- raiser is ‘baby photo May’ where senior parent’s paid fifteen dollars to have their senior’s baby picture displayed in the hall all month. Students and parents alike raised money for Project Graduation by providing and selling baked goods at the Holiday Bazaar in December. Also, parents have volunteered at the Cedar Park Center, giving their time so students can attend Project Graduation for free.

    Any graduating seniors who registered by turning in the proper paperwork by May 28 can attend for free.

     Students who will be attending can meet at Cedar Park High School by 11:00 p.m. at which time they will check in at the cafeteria. The buses will leave no later than 11:30, so be prompt. It is required that the graduates arrive to Dave and Buster’s by the buses that the school provides. No one can meet at Dave and Buster’s. Each student attending must show photo ID for admission and no guests will be allowed at The Project Grad Party.

     Keys, ID and all other personal items will be checked in during registration. Any extra items on your person will be confiscated until the end of the event, including cell phones. There will be phones available for use in case of emergency situations, and parents will be given the phone number of the chaperone in charge in case they need to reach the graduates while at the party.

     “There are many reasons that the items are collected,” LaBrake said. “The parents are responsible for everyone’s safety, so if you can bring some things and not other things, then students might hide something unsafe in a personal item. Another reason we collect everything is so that nothing will get lost. Finally, the focus of the party is not what’s going on outside the party, but rather what is going on inside the party. This is the last time you will see some of the people you have been in school with for thirteen years.”

     Graduates must not arrive under the influence, and are required to abstain from any drug or alcohol use throughout the event. Failure to remain substance free will result in parent notification and removal from the party. School rules and codes of conduct also apply, including zero tolerance policies. Seniors cannot leave early unless they are picked up by their parent or legal guardian and must have their early departures approved before the event.

     A special thanks goes out to the 2010 Project Graduation Board and Committees, and all the volunteers who donated their time and money to make this night possible.