This year, the Class of 2016 will launch into a night (and early morning) of substance-free fun at a new Project Graduation party site at one of the safest places in the state: Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton.
Guilford High School (GHS) Project Graduation chairman Christine Friel secured use of the huge naval base for this year’s event. She’s extremely excited about what’s in store for every member of the GHS Class of 2016 at the big party on Graduation Night, June 21.
“It’s in an entirely different place this year, and what safer place than a naval base?” says Christine, mom to a GHS senior. “This is a fully functioning base, right in the New London area, and they have all these different facilities that are absolutely amazing. It’s also great for the kids, because in the past they’ve had to go to places like Chelsea Piers in New York, which is not a pleasant drive.”
Following graduation ceremonies on the Town Green and a few hours to spend with family, Project Graduation participants will ship out from GHS at approximately 8 p.m. on Graduation Night, Tuesday, June 21, and return to Guilford at approximately 6:30 a.m. on June 22. Graduates must travel on buses provided to be admitted into the base and can only depart on buses the next morning. The event will be chaperoned by approximately 20 GHS junior class parents with services provided by base facility staff.
The night starts out at the base’s North Lake, with a Hawaiian themed picnic cook-out and entertainment including authentic Hawaiian fire dancers. Next, grads can face off for Extreme Paint Ball on the base’s lighted field, or hang out around the fire pit for s’mores and hot chocolate. In another building on the base, a DJ and light-show driven “Ultimate Foam” indoor dance party will get underway. The night also includes Glow in the Dark Bowling in the base’s own bowling alley, a magician/mentalist performing in the base’s stadium seating arena, a Play Zone (Xbox, PlayStation, and more), and an indoor Street Carnival with performers, prizes for grads to win, and plenty of carnival-style eats. Other activities available range from taking on a rock climbing wall to playing water volley ball—or just lounging on inflatables—in the base’s heated indoor pool. The night’s classic picnic fare, mounds of snacks, treats and beverages and choice of full or continental breakfast are all included as part of the event.
Christine and her committee members are hoping every member of the GHS Class of 2016 will want to attend Project Graduation, noting Guilford traditionally has a high attendance rate.
“We have about 230 kids in the class this year, and if 90 percent attend, that’s a good amount of people,” says Christine.
With statistics showing teens are at greater risk of alcohol- or drug-related motor vehicle accidents on graduation night, the plan behind Project Graduation is to keep the graduates entertained and enjoying each other’s company during a safe, substance-free celebration.
“Project Graduation is a nationwide event that’s been a part of Guilford’s graduation night for many years,” said Christine. “It’s providing graduating seniors with a fun, safe place to celebrate and a last night together with all their seniors. It’s chaperoned and drug and alcohol free, and it goes through the night into the early morning. It’s a free gift to graduates from parents and the community. “
While the lion’s share of Project Graduation expenses are covered for the grads, there is a registration fee. An early bird rate of $50 per registrant is available now; the fee goes up to $75 on May 1. Registration can be paid for and completed online at the GHS Project Graduation website, ghsprojgrad2016.weebly.com.
“We have to do a registration fee because it’s such an expensive event. If people say they’re going to come and then they don’t, we have to cover that,” Christine explains.
While the registration fee gets kids to commit to attending, it’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to footing the estimated cost of this year’s GHS Project Graduation party, approximately $22,000.
Fundraising to help cover Project Graduation expenses is underway. Green and white lawn signs congratulating the GHS Class of 2016 ($15) recently hit the website as a fundraising item. Project Graduation also handles orders for GHS Class of 2016 balloons (placed outside graduates’ homes in June). In addition, direct donations can be made online at the website.
Christine said Project Graduation is also very grateful to local businesses that respond to the committee’s annual appeal (letters were mailed out last week).
“We get some really nice support from some of Guilford’s bigger businesses and we have other businesses that help in other ways,” says Christine. “We have some retailers with coin collection jars out now. On March 19, we had car wash at Palumbo’s [Automotive], which generated a good amount. On May 5 at KC’s Pub, they’ll give 20 percent of your check to Project Graduation if you ask, which is very generous.”
GHS Project Graduation also offers Mother’s Day flower hanging planters online ($20, order by Friday, April 29; pick up Saturday, May 7) and is planning a Friday, May 13 Pasta Dinner at the St. George Church Hall. All of the fundraising opportunities and upcoming events are listed at the website and more will be added as they come up, says Christine.
“The more we get, the better off we are,” says Christine.
A GHS Class of 1980 graduate, Christine has experienced past Project Graduation parties in town. With her youngest daughter, Taylor, set to graduate with the GHS Class of 2016, Christine was happy to take on the role of Project Graduation chairman as a great chance to give back to the Guilford public school community.
“I was a PTO president when my kids were little, but this is a really big event for the kids, and it’s very much a community event,” says Christine. “This was something I felt was important. I’ve been very lucky to have a great team of committee chair parents in the senior class, as well as some great parents stepping up from the junior class, to help me this year.”
In a letter sent out earlier this year to GHS parents of seniors, Christine shared that Project Graduation’s goal of a safe and fun night that keeps graduates off the roads is worth supporting, saying, “They will all have a party to attend; no one will have to risk injury or death, none will have to deal with peer pressure to drink or ride with a drinking driver. Seniors will be leaving a legacy of safe celebrations for undergraduates, a legacy that will probably save the lives of future graduates.”