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Project graduation is not only exciting ... it can also save lives
OXFORD HILLS — For the Class of 2013, the weekend of June 8 should be exciting. At 7 p.m that Saturday, students will be graduating from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School; but the excitement won't stop there.
"Project Graduation" follows directly after the actual graduation ceremony, and doesn't end until the crack of dawn on Sunday.
The idea of Project Grad originated in Oxford Hills, after alcohol-related car crashes sparked a response by several members of the community.
June 14, 1979 was the first Project Graduation at OHCHS, attracting more than 100 students.
According to Richard Cormier, president of the Project Graduation Committee, this is the 33rd year the event has taken place. And, he reports, "Project Graduation attendance is up, compared to previous years."
Cormier has taught at the high school for 23 years. He said he is 100 percent supportive of Project Grad and the importance of it.
“The night is full of activities for students. We have an open gym, with a partial ropes course, a game room with Wii, Xbox and all sorts of other games," he said.
"There’s tons of food. Kiwanis holds a barbecue at the beginning of the night for students. We have a casino with ‘funny money,'" but not actual money, Cormier explained, “and at the end of the night, they can turn it in for tickets."
Cormier said those tickets can then go toward a Chinese auction and students can win all sorts of prizes, ranging from "college dorm room items, household goods and anything a student might need.”
The event also has a DJ that hosts contests all night. The high school usually gets decorated – the theme is "Hollywood" this year – and each student gets to take home a bag of goodies at the end of the night.
Usually inside the goody bags are items like water bottles, pens, coupons, a deck of cards and a t-shirt – but it’s only for the students who last the entire event.
“It’s a way for students to remember OHCHS," said Cormier.
"We have some students that can’t wait to get out and leave, but it’s been [their] home for four years. It’s [their] last chance to celebrate and just be a student one last time,” he said.
Organizing Project Graduation is a lot of work and is lacking volunteers. “It’s a year-long project,” Cormier said, “and it takes a lot of people."
"We have plenty [of volunteers] for the night of Project Grad, but we need volunteers to be on the committee throughout the year to participate in the meetings, do the fundraisers, and keep Project Grad going," Cormier said.
OHCHS Principal Ted Moccia said he, too, supports Project Graduation and the faculty and volunteers that make it possible.
"It's a small committee, but they’re very committed," Moccia said.
Moccia also knows there will always be students who aren’t interested in Project Graduation, however.
“I think kids will make the decisions that kids will make," he said.
"I think your moral values and who you are as a person will dictate the decisions you make, not whether there is a Project Grad or not.
"I think Project Grad is about making kids as safe as we possibly can for that important night. It’s one of the best things we do ... Keeping kids safe on a celebratory night ... is extremely important.”
For the 240-plus seniors graduating, it’s going to be a busy weekend full of activities and fun.
And, it could be a lifesaver for a senior who may have decided to attend an underage drinking party instead and possibly get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol.
"I would hate to see Project Grad go away," Cormier said.
"It saves kids lives. Just imagine, if those 240 seniors weren’t here [at Project Grad], where would they be?”