By Julie Gorham
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at 1:35 pm
Citrus High School is gearing up for graduation night 2017, and asks the community to support efforts for Project Graduation.
Citrus High School mathematics teacher Ashley Cooper said Project Graduation is a celebration for the students after graduation — a celebration free of drugs and alcohol.
“It is entirely free for students to attend and we encourage the kids to participate rather than partying and possibly having a driving-related accident,” Cooper said. “We want our teens to remember this night forever and we do it by providing an all-night party with fun, free food and lots of gifts.”
Students can expect a night free of negative peer pressure, with music by a DJ throughout the night, inflatable bounce houses, a photo booth and more, all while winning tons of gifts from TVs to a Kuerig coffee maker.
For over 20 years, Citrus High School has hosted Project Graduation, but could not do so without help from the community.
Project Graduation was started in 1979 in the town of Oxford Hills, Maine, after 18 teens died following graduation. In response, a school-
community coalition from Oxford Hills implemented Project Graduation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that works to keep graduates safe.
Citrus High School remains the only high school in Citrus County that participates, which is even more of a reason to keep it going, Cooper said.
“It takes a team of parents and the community to continue this memorable night,” Cooper said. “We are asking for your help to provide an evening of entertainment and prizes to honor the hard work of our graduates.”
In 2016, over 100 graduates spent their big night making happy memories at Rock Crusher Canyon. Brennen Bishop, a participating teen of Citrus High School class of 2016, said it was “phenomenal.”
“You are sad you are leaving your friends, but it is the one last ‘hurrah’ night where everyone is together having a blast and where everyone gets prizes,” Bishop said. “Even leading up to it with fundraising — it was great, parents and teachers helped with everything.”
“Overall it was a great experience. Ms. Cooper and her husband made professional cornhole sets; there was a ton of food from Chick-fil-A and it lasted until 2 a.m,” he said.
The Project Graduation Committee of the class of 2017 is planning to give the same experience.
“We currently are raffling off a Yeti cooler, retailed at $500,” Cooper said. “There are 250 raffle tickets available at $20 per ticket. We did this last year and it was a real success.”
Tickets can be purchased by calling Citrus High School, 352-726-2241, or at the Pine Street Pub in Inverness, with the final raffle drawing at 7 p.m. Friday, April 21.
Local businesses that would like to donate money or prizes and gifts can call Ashley Cooper at 352-726-2241.