To celebrate graduation, Lawrence high school seniors can either take chances with wild partying and alcohol—or with sober fun and a chance to win a car or other prizes.
Project Graduation brings businesses and parents in the community together to provide a fun and safe night for graduating seniors. This year, the party will be filled with casino-themed games and a chance to win an SUV. The party starts at 10 p.m. on May 22 at Abe and Jake’s, 8 E. Sixth St., and will rock on until 3 a.m.
The party is open to all graduating seniors from Bishop Seabury Academy, Lawrence Free State High School, Lawrence High School and Veritas Christian School. Tickets are $10 and available at the high schools or at the door during the event.
“We try to create an environment so that the kids will want to stay, so that they’re safe,” Deanne Arensberg, the publicity chair for the Project Graduation committee, said.
As in previous years, the party will have a variety of casino-themed contests, and the winners will be awarded cash and prizes. There will also be a mechanical bull contest, casino table games, a giant game of Twister, ping pong and more. One favorite game is the cash cage—a tornado of money that people stand in while frantically trying to collect as many dollars as possible.
Maggie Arensberg, now a freshman at Northwest Missouri State University, was one of many students who attended Project Graduation last year. “I went because I thought it would be fun and that the prizes were great,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to win a car? My favorite part was the cash boxes and the atmosphere. Everyone is running around, dancing and winning prizes.”
Students are encouraged to stay the for the entire party, and the wait is worth it. Raffles, which consist of mostly useful items for college, are drawn throughout the night; just about everyone goes home with a gift. The big door prize, which will be a 1997 Ford Explorer donated by Laird Noller Automotive, will be drawn at the very end of the event.
“Every successful business has a duty to give back to the community, and this is a really good opportunity for us to do that,” Bill Egan, the general manager at Laird Noller, said. “It’s a great cause. It keeps the kids safe on graduation night, and if we can be apart of that, we’re real happy.”
Many local businesses and organizations are contributing to the event this year: Hallmark, DCCCA, the City of Lawrence, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, the Lawrence Journal World’s Community Foundation, Party America and Printing Solutions. Arensberg said the community is passionate about helping the leaders of tomorrow, and this gives businesses a chance to expose their products and services to young customers.
Parents also are involved with the party. The Project Graduation committee is largely a parent organization that has been putting on this event for more than a decade. All of the committee members are volunteers, and they are always looking to expand their membership. To become a volunteer or donate prizes, visit the committee online at projectgraduationlawrence.org.
“The students know each other from the different schools,” Angie Evers, the co-chairwoman of the committee, said. "At this point, they’re graduates; nobody cares about the rivalries. In this sense, they are together for one night, and they’re Lawrence graduates and that’s it.”