By Barry Warner
Tappan Zee High School’s 2019 Project Graduation marks the 28th annual supervised, substance free, all-night party for the graduating seniors. This task involves community-wide support and financial assistance to reach a common goal: to provide a substance free, tobacco free and safe environment to celebrate graduation. Many other communities across the United States have hosted Project Graduations, which have reduced the chances of students being injured in alcohol or drug-related accidents.
“Project Graduation is an event where 300 students will be with their graduating class members for the last time,” Nicole Glazer told the Rockland County Times. “The all-night event, held at the high school, starts at 11 p.m. on the day of graduation and lasts until breakfast at 5 a.m. the following morning. Funds are raised with selling ‘June Balloons’ and a mailing to a very supportive community. A survey of the graduates is done to customize the entertainment and activities for the night, such as having a DJ and jousting. It’s amazing how different each class can be for their choices. The celebration culminates with an hour of entertainment and a comedian or hypnotist in the auditorium. Raffle prizes to sporting events and memorabilia from the New York Giants and New York Jets are given out. An invitation goes out to all senior parents to serve breakfast to their graduating children. During the breakfast session, a Tricky Tray raffle is held.”
“We charge a nominal fee of $10 and everything else is donated, including prizes and food. About 85 percent of the graduates show up at this must-attend party. I enjoy hearing the positive feedback from the students. It’s amazing as to how well received it is. There are about 50 underclassmen’s parents who volunteer to chaperone the occasion. That’s how I got ‘roped in’—when I volunteered to serve as a chaperone eight years ago with Project Graduation Coordinator Louise Jensen. She passed away and I have carried the torch ever since,” Glazer continued.
Some schools partner Project Graduation with a community outreach activity like a food drive or a communal art project. In many communities similar to Orangetown, local retailers sponsor events and provide food, prizes and take-away gifts for graduating seniors. Some other time-tested Project Graduation activities include live bands, performance artists, photo booths, a human gyroscope, karaoke, screening of senior activities, renting out a bowling alley, a fortune teller and serving sweet treats like sundaes, creative cupcakes and floats.
According to Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal. This driving behavior not only puts the teen driver at risk, but could result in injuring or killing others. An impaired driver’s judgment, reflexes and coordination are compromised. Common effects of being under the influence include:
- Alteration of depth perception
- Slow reaction time
- Reduction of peripheral vision
- Lack of awareness of the surroundings
All school-related functions are supposed to be chemical-free, but what makes Project Graduation different is the attitude of the students. They have made a conscious decision to enjoy their graduation night, without alcohol or drugs. No other group, including parents and school personnel, can make that decision for students.
Project Graduation collaborates with Rockland BOCES Career Development Center (KCDC), whose students handle the TZHS Project Graduation mailings under the supervision of Breda Purdy. KCDC is a vocational program that prepares students for the transition from school to adult life.
“Nicole rallies the troops and supports these amazing causes,” Dr. Jennifer Amos, Principal of Tappan Zee High School said. “Her leadership is tremendous and that’s why we have great activities for our Red and White graduates. She does a great job of raising money as well.”
“Nicole is also a tremendous help with the cheerleaders in preparing for the Homecoming Dance. They come in Friday and Saturday morning to decorate the gymnasium,” Director of Athletics Keith Johnson said. “It’s a highly attended event, a lot of students love it and Nicole does a great job in organizing the volunteers.”
The name ‘Project Graduation’ was coined in 1979 by educational planners in Maine, where a total of 18 people had died during 2 graduation seasons due to alcohol-related crashes. Maine’s first ‘Project Graduation’ was such a success, that high schools throughout the State adopted similar programs. ‘Project Graduation’ became the generic name for the chemical-free graduation parties that have started the new tradition of celebrating safely.
For additional information about volunteering, email Nicole Glazer at [email protected]