Sober party planning
Mar 03, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Free iPads, cell phones, laptops and gift cards cannot be won at a house party or a field party on high school graduation night. Teenagers can't play poker and blackjack and win free cash, or have free rein of the Odessa College Sports Complex to play games and hang out until 4 a.m.
The all-night party that starts directly after all the diplomas have been doled out is safe and it's sober.
These are the selling points for Odessa High and Permian High seniors to attend Project Graduation.
"We do it because just like after prom, everybody is hyped-up afterward and they want to go out and drink, and party and drive. The whole point is to keep kids from drinking and out of the streets," Andrew Marshall, a PHS senior, said.
The 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. hangout is free to students, and they can bring one guest who isn't a senior or from another school if they wish, Tracee Robinson, the PHS chairperson of Project Graduation and mom of a senior, said.
A full-fledged casino table, cash machine that sends dollars flying around for grabbing, basketball and volleyball tournaments, a photo booth, giant orb balls and massive jumping contraptions are just some of what teens can try out graduation night. Music, dancing, food and drinks will be in high supply and no student will walk away empty-handed, Robinson said. Even guests are eligible to win prizes.
"The longer they stay, the bigger and better the prizes get," Robinson said.
It costs about $9,000 just to host the event and rent all the equipment, but more donations are needed to purchase the prizes for students, Robinson said. Each school hopes to raise $10,000 to go toward prizes. No funding is coming from Ector County Independent School District.
"To me, I know he's going to be in a safe place with his friends and it's stuff that they like to do," Imelda Berzoza, OHS's Project Graduation chairperson, said.
A few seniors were asked to pen a list of what they would like to see at Project Graduation, and Berzoza, who works closely with the treasurer Cheryl Hinesly, said they are able to get practically everything that was asked.
At OHS's party, there will be a disc jockey and dance competition -- the details of which are still being worked out, Berzoza said.
The concept of putting on a party for seniors on their last day as high school students isn't a new one. Sober grad nights occur around the nation each spring and ECISD itself has put on the event for many years, with each high school hosting its own party.
Parent volunteers to cover shifts through the night are still needed for PHS and OHS.
"All of the parents are really supportive. I think they're glad to see the schools do something to get the message out," Marshall said.
He said the statement that "underage drinking and drug use is bad" is hammered home at school.
"We sit through the seminars and sit through assemblies, and they tell you what not to do all the time," Marshall said.
But Project Graduation is a solution -- not a lecture.
It's "an opportunity to do something else and have fun," he said. "Plus, this is the last opportunity to hang out together before everyone goes off to college."
--Contact Lindsay Weaver on twitter at @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Lindsay Weaver or call 432-333-7781.
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