Project Graduation has offered seniors an alcohol-free alternative for 29 years.
by Kayla Nalepa and Micaela Shannon
After the exhausted senior class finishes their graduation ceremony, they’ll realize it isn’t time to jump into bed just yet. One of the best parts of senior year is the small reward seniors receive in the form of Project Graduation, better known as Project Grad. Project Grad is an alternative that allows seniors to go out and have a fun yet sober night after graduation rather than partying which can have dangerous results.
Project Grad was created in 1987 with Northern participating. According to county coordinator Ms. Candice D’Agostino, Judge Jerry Lamson started the program after he saw the consequences of teen drunk driving accidents. As Prom and Graduation can be two of the highest risk times for students, creating this safe alternative to a night of wild partying was intended to reduce those risks on Graduation night. “They don’t have to worry about driving, just fun,” D’Agostino said.
The program is funded by the Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse, also known as CAASA. “CAASA took over the funding of Project Graduation in 1998 when it was determined that court fines could no longer be directed to the program,” D’Agostino said. The program receives money for the events from fundraising and grants.
The cost to attend the event is a $50 security payment which is refunded if you show up and have good behavior throughout the night. Seniors are allowed to bring one guest as long as the person is under 21.
At 11 p.m. on Graduation night, students come back to the school where they get on buses to ride to the event. “Usually, the turnout is very successful,” said vice principal Mr. Larry Butler. “There are seven or eight buses and about 45 students on each bus.”
This year, the event will again be held at Dave and Buster’s at Arundel Mills Mall. For a number of years until 2013, Project Grad was held on a small cruise ship on the Potomac river. The event was changed to Dave and Buster’s because there weren’t enough things for seniors to do on the boat.
Other high schools in the county go to the Patuxent Naval Air Station Recreation Center in Solomons for their Project Grad celebrations. “We are the only school in the county that goes to Dave and Buster’s,” Butler said. “It’s kind of like a school tradition.” The schools that do go to Pax River spend time swimming, cooking out, and taking part in outdoor activities.
For some seniors, this is not the first time they’ve been to Project Grad. “Not all seniors are friends with each other so it’s nice that seniors can bring friends from other grades,” said senior Paige Powell. She enjoyed her time last year with her senior friends and plans to go again. “I’m going again this year because you get to interact with people you’ve known all throughout school and it’s sort of like a farewell,” she said.
Senior year can be a stressful time. Project graduation is not only about playing games and spending time with the senior class, but it is also serves as a friendly reminder that alcohol and drugs aren’t needed to have a good time.