Why Project Graduation Matters More Than Ever

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
A Sip and Paint fundraiser was held on Sunday evening, December 13, to support Project Graduation in 2021 at Warsaw High School (WHS). The event was presented by Creative Pallet, a local business that offers a variety of painting, craft and art classes for all ages. Twenty-three attendees spent about three hours painting pictures to hang on their walls or doors and raised $500 for Project Graduation. Local businesses also provided gifts for drawings that were given out every 20 minutes.
One of the many results of COVID-19 was that the 2020 Project Graduation, which is an alcohol-free, overnight, post-graduation party overseen by adults, was cancelled for WHS graduating seniors. In the fall of 2019, typical fundraisers were held and others scheduled for the winter, but the largest fundraiser, the Basketball Tournament, had to be called off the day before it was scheduled to take place. 
“Tee-shirts had been ordered, officials and an auctioneer had been scheduled, and pies had been baked for the pie auction,” said Denise Reno, who served on the Project Graduation committee during the 2019/2020 school year. “We ended up working the concessions during the winter sports of basketball and wrestling, and getting paid a lump sum by the Booster Club at the end of the year. Although Project Graduation was not held, the funds raised were divided up among the graduates and each senior received $85 in an envelope.”
2020 WHS seniors had a graduation ceremony after the school year. It took place in the WHS gym at 10 AM, on July 22. 
The Project Graduation committee changes every year. It is manned by parents of graduating seniors. Tracey Spry, Chairman of the 2021 Project Graduation, said that fund-raising events are continuing this year, but things are different. She said that the committee does not know if there will be an actual Project Graduation, but if not, seniors will receive money, possibly in the form of gift cards, and will get prizes consisting of items that would be useful in dormitory rooms. Project Graduation committee member Megan Cunningham reported that $15,000 to $20,000 is the fund-raising goal for the year. Although some of the large fund-raising events cannot be held, there will be a lot of small events instead. It is unknown if the Basketball Tournament will be held in 2021. 
Project Graduation began in Maine 40 years ago in response to the tragic loss of 18 lives in alcohol and drug related crashes following graduation. In 1986, Project Graduation was held in all 50 states and two Canadian provinces.  Project Graduation has long since been recognized as a prototype for the nation, helping to protect the lives of graduating seniors in all states. Events often last through the night and are held in hotels or community centers. Students are checked for illicit substances before entry and are carefully monitored.