Cash prizes abound at Medford’s Project Graduation

Parents and the Project Graduation committee at Shawnee High School in Medford have been busy at work all year in preparation for this month’s event.

The graduation ceremony is not the end for the 367 seniors.

That night, Wednesday, June 13, from 10 p.m. to roughly 3 a.m. on June 14, the students will head back to the high school for one last hurrah.

“Keeping the kids safe is the number one priority,” said Ingrid Williams, Shawnee High School mathematics teacher and committee member.

Since the high school began hosting Project Graduation in 1998, there have been no traffic-related accidents or deaths of students, she said.

“That’s the whole point,” she said. “They want to see each other that night.”

Without Project Graduation, students might hop from house to house for graduation parties.

“The more you’re behind the wheel on that night, the higher the percentage of a chance of an accident,” Williams said.

Project Graduation is a drug free, alcohol free environment and is attended by 92 to 94 percent of all seniors.

“It’s a very high percentage,” she said, and most of the seniors stay until the end.

Mainly, they stay for the prizes.

The committee has been planning a potential cash prize night.

If all goes as planned, they will be giving 70 cash prizes ranging from $50 to $250, two HDTVs, two NOOKS by Barnes and Noble, two laptops, two iPads and two Kindle Fires. One lucky winner will receive the top prize of $2,012 for their graduation year.

Those who do not win any of the above will potentially receive a $25 Wawa gift card, which nearly negates the $30 fee to attend the event.

“Businesses and parents make contributions,” she said. “That keeps us going.”

Knowing that many recent grads will take to the roads and head to the beach the next day, the committee, while planning in 1997, decided to opt for a half-night event.

“The parents felt that it was dangerous to do it all night,” said Williams. “We didn’t want them driving on no sleep to the shore.”

Many students will drive themselves home or carpool.

Two volunteer policemen will be on duty as well as an army of 130 to 140 parent chaperones, Williams said.

With graduation being a rain or shine event, there is virtually no chance of Project Graduation getting canceled.

Parents had to vote whether to hold graduation indoors.

They voted “yes” to keep the kids safe the night of graduation.

Shawnee is the only Lenape Regional High School District school that holds Project Graduation at the school.

From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., the kids will be able to sing karaoke in the cafeteria, load up on pizza, sliders, veggies, fruits, Starbucks and sweets such as Rita’s Water Ice and play games.

There will be a temporary tattoo station, a faculty dunk tank and a photographer on site to capture the night and make photo key chains.

Inflatable games, such as a cash cube, a bungee run and volleyball matches will also take place.

J-Dogs will be providing the games and food.

“There’s a lot to keep them busy,” she said.

The catch is that the students have to arrive by 11 p.m. and must stay until the end. If they leave, there is no re-entrance allowed.

“They can’t come back,” she said.

At 1 a.m., Barbara Gambrill, a hypnotist, will host an hour-long show.

The night will conclude with the raffles.

“They have a good time with their classmates,” Williams said. “They know it’s worth coming.”