Graduation was for Julie Seidel's parents. Project Graduation was for her.
"Project Graduation is more tailored to us," said Seidel, a 2002 graduate of Free State High School. "It's more like our normal environment."
New alumni of Lawrence and Free State high schools threw off the graduation robes and mortarboards they wore Sunday afternoon and flooded The Granada for a graduation bash.
During the party, which lasted until 4 a.m., graduates danced and participated in a free throw shoot-out with Kansas University men's basketball coach Roy Williams and a football-toss contest with KU football coach Mark Mangino.
Although the games were fun, Jessica Stoltenow, LHS graduate, said that wasn't the reason she came.
"I wanted the prizes," she said.
About 45 prizes were given out every 30 minutes beginning at midnight. Prizes included a 1989 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Edition and a $500 scholarship. Laird Noller Automotive donated the car, and the Lawrence Journal-World provided the funds for the scholarship as well as the facility rental and disc jockey.
More than $12,000 in cash was given away in drawings throughout the night. Other prizes included televisions, videocassette recorders, a sound system, residence hall refrigerator, color printer and canoe trip.
Bonnie Short, event co-chairwoman and LHS parent, said the yellow poster board filled with names of sponsors was a testament to how much the community cared about its students.
Short and Jan Criswell, co-chairwoman and FSHS parent, began planning the event in August 2001. The party aims to provide a safe, alcohol-free environment for graduates.
Rick Charnes, FSHS parent, was among about 60 parent volunteers at the event.
"It's a great deal," said Charnes, who has volunteered at Project Graduation for five years. "It keeps the kids off the streets."
Short said giving the two schools an opportunity to celebrate together was also a goal.
"It's great to bring students from the two schools back together," she said. "They may go to two different schools, but they're all Lawrence kids."