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A night to remember – safely

Moorestown initiative emphasizes safe celebrations as high school ends

Special to The Sun
Project Graduation is a nationwide effort that began in response to seven alcohol- and drug-related teen deaths in Maine during graduation celebrations.

Project Graduation was adopted by Moorestown years ago as an annual community-sponsored celebration for township graduates to be safe as they celebrate the end of high school, according to the Moorestown Education Foundation’s website.

“For the past few years that I’ve done it, I didn’t even have a graduating senior, and it’s still such an amazing thing to see the town come together for this graduating class,” said Amy Chezem, 2026 Project Graduation committee member. “ … This community event is just greatly needed and truly appreciated.”

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All graduating classes have a committee of parents and volunteers – formed when each class is in eighth grade – who work over the course of four years to make the graduation event happen. The initiative is nationwide and began in the Oxford Hills area of Maine in 1980, a response to seven alcohol- and drug-related teen deaths that occurred during graduation celebrations.

“It takes a lot of support and effort from the graduating class in picking the locations for that particular night, which happens a year ahead of time at least,” Chezem explained. “We provide them with fun events that’s good for everybody, so some may be athletics locations, some are just fun dance parties.

” … We try to really plan a few secret locations throughout the night that appeal to everybody regardless of what they’re into.”

Project Graduation continues to be an inclusive event that not only protects township graduates but also shows them that celebrations do not need to include drugs or alcohol to be fun. During the year, committee members work with roughly 100 corporate donors, about 300 parent donors and the township to fundraise for and support the effort.

Chezem got involved with the project after years as a volunteer, and she said her experiences have been nothing short of rewarding.

“It was just so much fun,” she recalled. “You play games with them (graduates) and you talk to these seniors that are just loving life at that moment, and it’s honestly really rewarding. That’s what I got out of it, is just to see something that this town put together for these kids knowing that they have a safe night ahead of them.”

Chezem remembers a few years ago when she and other volunteers were at a site waiting for alumni to arrive. It was a moment when she could see how excited they were once they walked through the doors.

“We were clapping and cheering and high-fiving, and just really getting them hyped up was really fun too,” she said. “They might have been tired on the bus, but as soon as they walked in we just fed off of each other’s energy.”

Chezem reiterated how financial and volunteer support make Project Graduation successful.

“If you can donate financially,” she pointed out, “or if you can donate your time that actual night, it is so greatly needed and truly appreciated … Just knowing in a few years that your kid will be in this spot, and when they come home and say, ‘Project Graduation was amazing and I’m so glad I did it and we had such a great time,’ is very rewarding.”

People who are interested in volunteering for Project Graduation must be a parent of a student(s) in the Moorestown district, but their offspring do not have to be at the high-school level. If you would like to donate to Project Graduation or learn more, visit moorestowneducationfoundation.org.


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