Project Graduation still going strong |

Project Graduation still going strong

Cindy Ramunno

EAGLE COUNTY – Nineteen years ago at Eagle Valley High School, Project Graduation was created for the graduating Class of 1986. Battle Mountain High School parents also started the tradition for their graduating seniors. Project Graduation is a drug and alcohol-free party for graduating seniors on commencement night. The goal is to keep kids safe on what is otherwise considered a “high risk” night, meaning that it sometimes ends in tragedy for celebrating seniors. Project Graduation dates back to 1979. That year, the Oxford Hills area in Maine experienced seven alcohol- and drug-related teen deaths during the graduation season. As a result, the schools and communities in that area offered their students an alternative to the ‘traditional’ graduation night. They called the party “Project Graduation” and by 1986, similar activities were held in fifty states.The parties look different in every state and at every school. Some schools celebrate at recreations centers, some at resorts and others with a short road trip. The overnight party typically starts at around 5 p.m. after graduation and ends the next morning at around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. Students sometimes receive prizes and cash award for attending and the activities are set for seniors to enjoy their last night together as a class. “Our first Project Graduation party in 1986 was very successful,” says Eagle Valley teacher Susan Scott. Scott spearheaded the efforts back then and is now a parent of a 2005 graduate. “When we introduced the idea, the students were not overly excited,” she says. “One student even told me that he was going to have a keg at his house for graduation and that no one would probably attend.”But despite the negative reactions, the committee continued to plan. The first party was held at Eagle Valley Middle School, where the night included prize drawings, dancing, a catered dinner and swimming. Ninety-eight percent of the seniors attended. Many of the parties have been held in the high school’s gym. Some of the parties included mock gambling nights, hypnotists, musicians and laser tag. Classes have ventured out to local bowling alleys and most recently, there have been trips to Six Flags/ Elitch Gardens in Denver and other amusement parks. “The main purpose of Project Graduation is to keep students in a safe environment during a time that some students may choose parties that include alcohol and/or drugs,” Scott says. The Class of 2004 at Eagle Valley celebrated at 4-Eagle Ranch in just north of Wolcott. Sean Bartlett, a graduate of that class, says Project Graduation is a good thing. “It was a fun time with all of my friends,” says Bartlett, who is now a freshman at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. The Class of 2005 will not know the plan until they show up for the party as the activities are a secret. “As a parent, I appreciate the efforts of senior parents taking the time or organize a fun and safe activity for all of the graduates,” says Scott, .Teacher/coach Eric Mandeville remembers his Project Graduation party after his high school graduation in Connecticut. “It’s a great way for seniors to culminate their high school experience in a safe and exciting environment,” says Mandeville. “It is one of my fondest memories from my own high school experience.” Vail, Colorado

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