Project Graduation to provide celebration, prize drawings for high school graduates

Lawrence high school students look over a Ford Explorer that will be given away in a drawing at Project Graduation. The vehicle was on display Friday, May 27, 2011, at the high school during a rehearsal for the LHS graduation ceremony Sunday.

Jeans or shorts, heels or flats, car or cash.

Yes, graduating seniors have plenty of pivotal decisions ahead this Sunday and beyond, but perhaps none more crucial than the one awaiting upon entrance to Abe & Jake’s Landing for the 34th annual Project Graduation bash.

There, each graduate will tear off a ticket stub and stuff the printed number into one of two tubs: one to enter a drawing for 1999 limited-edition Ford Explorer, the other for a chance to win $2,000 cash.

Nobody ever said embarking into the real world would be easy.

“This is the first year we’ve done that, given them an option,” said Kevin Doyle, co-chair for the overnight party. “It’s a tough decision, but I’m sure these kids are up for it.”

More than 600 of this year’s graduates from Lawrence’s four high schools — Bishop Seabury Academy, Free State High School, Lawrence High School and Veritas Christian Academy — will be expected at the party, an effort backed by dozens of business sponsors and more than 100 volunteers.

The plan is to give graduates a fun, safe and alcohol-free place to celebrate their accomplishments. The party starts at 10 p.m. Sunday and goes until 3 a.m. Monday, and features casino games, food, drinks, dancing, karaoke and a mechanical bull.

Students also will have access to two cash cages, each time getting 10 seconds inside to grab — and keep — as many of the $3,000 in bills blowing around as possible.

All attendees also will be entered into drawings conducted every 20 minutes for prizes ranging from flat-screen TVs to gift cards to digital cameras to a laptop computer and a Kindle. One lucky grad will win a blue ukulele.

Buy a ticket, show up, have fun and stick around to the end: The grand-prize drawings for the Explorer and the $2,000 are set for 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

“For that $10 ticket, it’s not only fun,” Doyle said. “It can also be a pretty good investment.”

Organizers already have sold 260 tickets, a pace ahead of last year’s presale numbers. Grads in line by 11 p.m. Sunday will be able to buy tickets at the door.