Graduation party to give safe option for seniors

Parents of Lawrence high school seniors are gearing up to provide the graduates with a safe celebration after they receive their diplomas in the 2009 version of Project Graduation.

“It’s very important. We just want to keep all the kids safe. That is the ultimate goal,” said Karen Hill, a co-chairwoman for Project Graduation.

This year’s celebration is set for 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. May 24 at Abe and Jake’s Landing, 8 E. Sixth St.

That’s the evening of the Lawrence High School and Free State High School graduation ceremonies, but all graduating Lawrence students are invited, including from Bishop Seabury Academy, Veritas Christian School and any home-school graduates.

The party is traditionally organized by parents with the help of community donations to provide an alcohol- and drug-free venue where students can win prizes to celebrate their graduation.

One change this year will be an emphasis on more cash prizes instead of a used car, which is typically the top prize at the end of the event. Hill said parent organizers were reluctant to ask car dealers to donate a car as a prize because of the economy.

Parents also informally surveyed some seniors, who said most of their classmates already have a car.

“A cash prize is winning out, hands down,” Hill said.

The main cash prize could also becomes larger and larger throughout the night as parents and others contribute more, she said.

Volunteers have already raised about $9,000 in donations from parents and businesses to fund the multitude of prizes the graduates will be able to win that night. Organizers hope to reach their goal to raise $15,000. Other than the main cash prize, graduates will be able to win video games, an iPod, digital cameras and other items.

To donate prizes, e-mail Kevin Doyle at, or Joe Kenney at Cash donations can also be mailed to Project Graduation 2009, in care of treasurer Cris Denning, P.O. Box 3083, Lawrence, KS 66046-0083.

Anyone who wants to volunteer can e-mail Linda Wildgen at