LIVINGSTON, NJ — As the Class of 2019 approaches graduation from Livingston High School, the district staff members, township employees and senior parents are hard at work finalizing the details for this year’s fun-filled Project Graduation to ensure that graduates can celebrate in a safe but memorable way that includes.
Food, entertainment and transportation are all included in the free, post-graduation extravaganza, which originated in Maine in 1979 after seven drug-and-alcohol deaths occurred around high school senior graduation in Oxford Hills.
As Oxford Hills and neighboring towns were determined to prevent future graduation-related tragedies, Maine’s Department of Education began providing drug-and-alcohol training to community and school officials. Ultimately, the newly established Drug and Alcohol Team of Oxford Hills (DATOH) rented out a local fairground in 1980 to host the first Project Graduation, which was a graduation celebration free of drugs and alcohol.
The movement grew rapidly throughout the United States, and six years later, high schools in 50 states and two Canadian provinces had all implemented what is now known nationally as Project Graduation.
June 2019 will mark Livingston High School’s 33rd Project Graduation, which is not only a celebration for the seniors, but is also the culmination of a great deal of work by many people.
In addition to support from the Township of Livingston and Livingston Public Schools, the graduates, their parents and other members of the community also contribute financially to the evening.
Event venues—which are kept secret from the graduates until their arrival on site—have previously included Drew University, Farleigh Dickinson University, Liberty Science Center and Dave & Busters.
Fundraising for Project Graduation begins when the graduating class enters 5th grade, when Parent-Teacher Council fees are deposited in a savings account opened for the students. Bake sales, basket bonanzas and other fundraisers are also held to bulk up the class’ bank account throughout the years.
One of the most spirited senior traditions that also serves as a fundraiser for Project Graduation is the Livingston High School Senior Games, a four-way color war between the entire class.
According to Ann Ferreira, Class of 2019 Chairwoman of Project Graduation, the evening is organized as follows:
“Livingston Public Schools donates busses and provides drivers to take students to the secret destination, administrators assist with student check-in and a nurse keeps our students safe on site.
“The Township of Livingston provides police services. They assist with the check-in process on the night of the event, lead our school bus caravan out of town with lights flashing, provide security for the cars parked overnight and oversee the orderly dismissal of students when they return by bus at 4:00 a.m.
“Local Businesses donate goods and services to the event, and parents donate gift cards, which are raffled off during the night.”
On the night of Project Graduation, about 60 parent volunteers check the graduates in and chaperone the busses as well as at the venue.
Project Graduation activities include games, sports, movies, dancing, a mentalist, magic and more. The graduates also enjoy refreshments and each other’s company until they return to the high school in the wee hours of the morning.
“Our goal is to send a clear message to our youth: ‘We are proud of your accomplishments and want you to celebrate with good, clean fun,’” said Ferreira.
For more information about Project Graduation click HERE.