By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Around here, most kids don’t go to wild, unsupervised parties on high school graduation night.
Instead, you’ll find most of them at Project Graduation, a parent-sponsored event that got its start in Glenwood Springs 28 years ago and has since spread to Carbondale and Basalt.
“It’s usually at least 90 percent turnout, if not more,” said Cathy Derby, one of the organizers for the Carbondale event this year. “I think even more than prom it’s an emotional day. It’s their last night together, and we want to keep them safe.”
Formatted as a casino night with an array of games and activities, Project Graduation entices students with prizes they can use in college or the workforce. It’s made possible by volunteers, private contributions and business donations.
“The community has been very generous now and in years past,” Derby said. “We have a good problem right now in that the classes keep growing, which means it requires more money.”
The last time Derby organized the event, there were less than 60 students in the graduating class. This year, there are 86 and there are more than 120 freshmen.
As such, there’s a real need for donations and volunteers. That can be a challenge for Derby, who works as Carbondale’s Town Clerk and has to make it clear that any requests are as a parent of a former student and not in her official capacity. Unsolicited contributions are even more appreciated, and can be sent to P.O. Box 1053; email email@example.com for more information.
Project Graduation is not an official school sponsored event, but Vice Principal Kelsie Goodman certainly appreciates the parents who put it together.
“We know there are higher incidents across the nation at prom and graduation … It’s not just about being safe that one night, it’s also about teaching good habits,” she said. “Graduation is a pivotal moment and it should be celebrated. I love that there’s a really fun and safe opportunity for them to be all together.”