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The Wright Opinion - A good project
Seth Wright.jpg

A week ago tonight I covered the Warren County High School graduation. Additionally, since news editor Bethany Porter typically goes to bed around 10 and I usually work on the newspaper until around 4 a.m. every Friday night/Saturday morning anyway, I volunteered to cover Project Graduation at Milner Recreation Center.

Project Graduation is an event I have fond memories of. Those memories are understandably a little fuzzy as it’s been 30 years since I was at one. It is a lock-in party lasting from 10:30 p.m. - 4 a.m. offering WCHS graduates free food, swimming, activities and a variety of games. 

Project Graduation has its roots in Maine in 1980 as an event designed to give high school graduates a drug- and alcohol-free place to safely celebrate together, keeping teenagers off the road on a historically dangerous night. The idea caught on across America. I can’t say for certain just how long Warren County has held the event but I can confidently say it’s been over 31 years as I attended in 1992 (and again in 1993 as a guest of a senior) and the event predates my senior year. 

Project Graduation has certainly evolved and grown since then. In 1992 I participated in games to earn tickets to be used in an auction to get prizes. My hours of working diligently for tickets were enough to earn me a plastic water bottle by early Saturday morning. Now, graduates often walk out with microwaves or furniture or TVs. 

That's an upgrade due in no small part to the amount of work students, parents, volunteers and sponsors put in throughout the year to raise money for the party. I was told over $80,000 was raised for this year's Project Graduation and, from what I witnessed, it was money well spent. On Friday night I watched hundreds of recently graduated students enjoying what will be, for many of them, their last night together. That statement may seem like hyperbole but certainly there are some classmates of mine I haven't seen again since Project Graduation.

As if I needed it pointed out just how far removed I am from my own Project Graduation days, two of the first people I encountered as I walked in were my high school friends Chris Key and Chris Hobbs. It really doesn't seem like its been that long since this night was meant for us and we celebrated our own graduation together. As we were back again in that atmosphere not as students but as the managing editor of the newspaper, a volunteer security guard and parent of a class of 2023 graduate, and the principal of Warren County High School and also a parent of a graduate, it was clear just how much time had passed and how much has changed.

What hasn't changed, thankfully, is the spirit behind Project Graduation. It's a great night for kids to safely cut loose and have fun together before beginning the next phase of their lives. I hope their memories of Project Graduation are as fond as mine. 

Standard Managing Editor Seth Wright can be reached at (931) 473-2191