First Bell: Check out the Project Graduation prize list; one partygoer will win an Explorer worth $6,000; board members pick up rental robes for commencements

A few notes and items regarding education in the area:

In weeks past we’ve detailed some of the high-tech, high-value and high-interest — remember the ukulele? — prizes expected to be given away to graduates attending Project Graduation, the end-of-the-year bash that runs from 10 p.m. Sunday to 3 a.m. Monday at Abe & Jake’s Landing, Sixth and New Hampshire streets.

Now we have the final list, which you can download from the box that accompanies this story (there’s a list of volunteers, too, indicating just how much effort goes into throwing a party like this).

The prize document is a voluminous accounting that fills 10 pages, leaving blank spaces to be filled in with 84 joyful winners drawn from among the more than 600 new graduates of Bishop Seabury Academy, Free State High School, Lawrence High School and Veritas Christian School expected to attend.

The drawings start at 11:30 p.m., with a 32-inch Sharp flat-screen TV, and will continue every 20 minutes until 2:30 a.m., when separate drawings will be conducted for grand prizes:

• A 1999 limited-edition Ford Explorer.

• $2,000 cash.

Here’s a reminder for graduates angling to attend and win: The doors open at 10 p.m., and admission tickets ($10) will be sold at the door until 11 p.m.; if you’re not in the door or in line by 11 p.m., you’re out of luck.

For more information about the party, visit the Project Graduation website,


Now, for a bit about that limited-edition Ford Explorer…

Sounds like it’s quite the set of wheels: four doors, leather seats, sunroof, new muffler and on and on.

Even with 185,000 miles on the engine, the Explorer is in excellent condition, reports Gary Bennett, president of Laird Noller Automotive in Lawrence, which is donating the vehicle.

“They’re all highway,” he says.

Kelley Blue Book pegs the vehicle’s value at more than $6,000, something the dealership is more than happy to provide for Project Graduation, a volunteer effort that has been keeping graduates in Lawrence safe for 34 years now.

Whoever wins the drawing will need to simply show up at the dealership on 23rd Street with written proof of insurance for the vehicle, then sign some papers, take the keys and drive off.

Although the fuel tank may not be full — Project Graduation volunteers have been driving the Explorer around town, to help draw interest in the event — Laird Noller Automotive will be covering the new owner’s taxes.

“We take care of that for them,” Bennett said. “Then they’re off and running.”


A box of rental gowns awaits distribution to members of the Lawrence school board, for use during 2011 commencement ceremonies. From left to right are Janice Dunn, board clerk; Rick Doll, superintendent of the Lawrence school district; Rich Minder, board president; and Mark Bradford, board vice president. Members received their gowns before their May 23 meeting at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Rental gowns are bagged and ready for distribution to members of the Lawrence school board, for use during 2011 commencement ceremonies. Among them are these for Rich Minder, board president, and Mary Loveland, a longtime board member.

Lions will be wearing black gowns adorned with red cords and mortar boards topped with red tassels. Across town, Firebirds will be decked out in green robes and mortar boards, their tassels silver.

Lawrence school board members will don black gowns, rented by the Lawrence school district as they sit on the field for the 1 p.m. commencement at Lawrence High School and on stage for the 4 p.m. ceremony in the stadium at Free State High School.

At least one administrator should be easy to spot: Superintendent Rick Doll will be donning some purple, indicative of his advanced degrees — a master’s and doctorate in educational administration — from Kansas State University.

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