April 7, 2023

Project Graduation strives to give graduates a fun, memorable, safe night

By Masha Yurkevich

Graduation is a huge milestone in the lives of many people and a night that is filled with vivid and enjoyable memories. Project Graduation is an organization spread out over many schools and districts in the United States to offer students just that: a fun, memorable, but most importantly safe, graduation night.

Project Graduation started in the state of Maine in 1980, long before our local group was formed in 2022. The primary goal of Project Graduation is to plan a night of substance-free fun for the graduates the night that they march, which is June 11 for RSU 14 graduates Every group and every district takes a different approach to this, but the goal is for the graduates to stay all night, have a lot of fun with their friends and end up the next morning with a memorable night, but most importantly, safe and sound.

Project Graduation launched in 1980 when seven alcohol and other drug-related teen deaths occurred in Oxford Hills during the beginning of the season. Led by Drug and Alcohol Team of Oxford Hills (DATOH), schools in the area and local communities provided the Class of 1980 at Oxford Hills High School with information about the risks of drinking, drugging and driving. The seniors were offered an alternative to the "traditional" graduation-night drinking event that drew hundreds of people to the local fairgrounds. They called this chemical-free party "Project Graduation.” The purpose of Project Graduation is to give the graduates the opportunity to celebrate their success with their classmates, substance-free, and to come home safely to their families.

Diane Hancock is the co-chair of WHS Project Graduation 2023. Each year the "baton" is passed down from the current graduating class to the junior class.

“We started last April when we were given information from the Project Graduation 2022 group,” says Hancock. “It has been a great group of volunteers to work with, so it has been fun, but it has also been a lot of work. Project Graduation is an important initiative designed to keep kids safe and alive after graduation and everyone who has contributed in any way values that goal.”

To raise money for each year’s graduates’ event, Project Graduation hosts different kinds of events and activities, some of which are annual and some which are chosen by the current group. Their annual events this year have included concessions for the WYSA families down at Gambo in the spring and fall, a Golf Tournament, selling pies at the Windham Craft Fair, the Homecoming dance, and selling mums. Their group has also decided to hold an Ugly Sweater 5k in December and we will be hosting a comedy night at Schoolhouse Arts Center on May 19, with more information to come.

“It is tough to put a number of people who are on this group,” says Hancock. “Some people attend meetings, some volunteer, some donate, and some do all three. There are a lot of people who contribute in some capacity, including local businesses. We always hope that all families will contribute in whatever way they can and welcome new participants. Our next meeting will be held on April 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Alumni Conference room at Windham High School. The current Junior class is just starting to form their group and people can reach out to us to be connected with that group as well.”

The next event that Project Graduation will be holding is on May 19, and they invite everyone for a fun night of comedy. If you are looking for ways to donate, they are currently accepting cash donations and donations of gift cards that will be used for the class of 2023 Project Graduation event on June 11.

You can reach out to Project Graduation at whsprojectgraduation2023@gmail.com if you would like to donate or for more information. You can also find them on Facebook at WHS 2023 Project Grad to follow what they are doing and when their next activity is. <

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