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Project Grad volunteers keep parties safe for Class of 2008


Committee members from Almont, Capac, Dryden, Imlay City share secrets of success


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Imlay City Project Graduation 2008 moms Pat Swejkowski, Cindy Hummel, Dawn Pardon and Julie Gouine raise money for the cause at concession stand. Project Graduation volunteers work to provide a safe party atmosphere for area graduating high school seniors.

May 28, 2008
After the caps and gowns comes the well-deserved party. It is, after all, graduation time. But thanks to a group of dedicated parents, those graduation parties are safe and alcohol/drug free for area students.

Project Graduation was started to keep teens off the streets and away from parties where drinking and drugs may be during the night of commencements. For the parents of Imlay City, Dryden, Almont and Capac high school students, Project Graduation has become a labor of love between parent, child and community.

Cindy Hummel and Dawn Pardon are co-chairpersons this year for the Imlay City High School Class of 2008. With a graduating class of 143, their June 1 commencement night is quickly approaching and Hummel explains that about 20 parents helped with everything. Many others stepped forward to lend their assistance with the ongoing fundraising events whenever their work schedule allowed. Utilizing the Imlay City High School facility, they raised the money for the all-night Project Graduation party's food and entertainment.

"Our entertainment is awesome," says Hummel. A strolling magician, a hypnotist, laser storm, a CD booth where the kids can sing and record their own CDs, two 12 foot screens on which the kids can play X-box games, guitar hero, dance, Halo 3, a rock band, mechanical bull and a few caricature artists, along with a 3 on 3 basketball tournament and pictures taken of the senior class throughout the year will be displayed during the all-night party.

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Imlay City's Project Graduation began in 1991 and each year committee groups acquire information that is passed along to future committee groups.

"Every year you can do the same fundraising events," Hummel says, "and based on what's happening around the area, those events will bring in differing sums."

This year's Alumni/Teacher vs. Boys/Girls Varsity Basketball game proved especially successful. Everyone had a good time, Hummel says, noting that parents are often more willing than not to help out with the fundraisers.

"Doing concessions for a variety of events brings in a lot of money for us," she says, "but it takes all the parents working together to raise the money."

Dryden High School's 68 seniors will be adorned in caps and gowns on June 8. Their all-night party will be held at Lapeer Recreational Facility. Peggy Chisholm is the Project Graduation director, and Linda Slosar is the chairperson. There will be racquetball, volleyball, basketball, swimming, entertainment, food and much much more throughout the evening.

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Dryden Project Graduation volunteers raise funds during Dryden’s Harvest Fest last fall. Pictured are Julie Miller, Kim Jackman, Loari Ferrett, Al Ferrett, Joann Barnier, and Peggy Chisholm. photo by Catherine Brakefield.

The group's Dryden Festival fundraiser in September, their Chicago bus trip and tour in November, bowling at Hideaway Lanes in February and a Lenny Miller's event, were among the fundraisers that worked out well. The 25 parents who donated their services are very happy with the results.

"It was fabulous!" Chisholm says.

Chisholm explains that both the parents and community really came out and supported Project Graduation this year, adding that she was never in want of volunteers to help.

"Everyone who has a senior helps," says Chisholm. "This year I have about 25 parents dedicated and very involved."

Almont High School's Project Graduation has been in existence for 16 years. Due to scheduling conflicts, Almont's Project Graduation party was scheduled for May 22, the last day of school. Almont's graduating class consists of 160 seniors. The seniors' all-night party will be at Dave & Busters and the parents raised enough funds so that the cost for the seniors was just $20 per person. Dave & Busters supplies the food and beverages and includes a breakfast buffet in the morning. Dave & Busters will be closed to the public and the Almont senior class has use of the entire building for the evening.

Lisa Johnson is the president of this year's Project Graduation. She explains that it was due to the efforts of about 20 parents volunteering their services and Bernadette Tymitz, coordinator for Centerplate, which made their fundraiser a complete success.

"Centerplate offers the ability to raise funds at various venues," Johnson says. "The Palace, DTE, and Meadow Brook and selling at the concession stands. Our group received a portion of the profits for each event we worked. It is a fabulous way to fundraise. Centerplate offered the best ability to raise money. It did require a lot of volunteers and time, but the money you can raise is amazing."

Judi Bourgeois organized Almont's golf outing and Sally Ligon organized a Big Boy fundraiser. Jeanie and Sheldon Miller organized a Buffalo Wild Wings fundraiser. Almont also received a Four County Community Foundation grant, and the 2007 graduating class left this year's Project graduation a generous donation.

"Raising money is hard work," Johnson says with a grin.

Tammy Jordan, committee chairperson for the graduation project at Capac High School couldn't agree more. She worked closely with Committee Financial Chairperson Karrie Bollaert and Senior Class Advisor, Lena Resin (Fionda) to ensure that their 138 seniors graduating on June 1 would not be disappointed.

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Tammy Jordan and other parent-volunteers meet at Capac Library to finalize Project Graduation 2008 plans. Bev Patton, Sue Pouliot, Carol Veryser, Tammy Jordan, Karrie Bollaert, Lisa Jackson, Marlene Bollaert, Annette Ferrett, Sharyl Bly, and Edwinna Bruce are pictured. Not pictured is volunteer Nancy Stoddard, a key member of the committee. photo by Catherine Brakefield.

Their all-night party will be held at Total Sports in Harrison Twp. The cost for the facility is $20 per person and $6 for each adult chaperone. Jordan's committee has provided something for every senior that night.

"We have an excellent lineup," Jordan says.

Master Hypnotist Jack Fraylick is back again this year. There will be tattoo artist Rosemarie Rohelier of Fantasy Tattoos, a magician, Rodney Palmer of First

Class Magic, and DJ/Karaoke Entertainer, Rebecca Poynter of Bex Entertainment. There will be bowling, unlimited pizza, pop and salad, dancing, singing, pool tables, dart boards, air hockey, basketball, racquet ball, volleyball, and contests, just to mention a few activities. Each senior will receive gifts and prizes that are both useful and fun.

Capac's fundraisers included mailing out 100 letters asking for donations or gifts. They had concessions at school events, bake sales, a meat raffle, and a spaghetti dinner that included an auction and 50/50 drawing. Surprisingly the fundraiser which brought in the most money was the meat auction.

Jordan explains the contributing factors to this successful fundraiser; ticket printing was donated, as was the processing of the meat. People on the committee were very generous in donating a whole hog, a Thanksgiving turkey and the like. The first prize drawing was ¼ side of beef and ½ hog.

"We sold tickets for $5 each and held the drawing at our spaghetti dinner fundraiser, which was the next big money maker," Jordan says.

Jordan says the committee also received grants from Four County Community Foundation.

Besides looking at this as a full time job, Jordan explains that fundraising takes a strong commitment, a positive attitude, good connections, and a big heart.

With enough people sharing the load and striving toward a common goal, she says that fundraising can be fun and rewarding.

"There are some wonderful people in this world that will do and give anything they can when it comes to helping children," Jordan says.

"We all share the common goal of keeping our kids safe on commencement night," Hummel of Imlay City Project Graduation says, "and not to have to worry about them being somewhere with alcohol or drugs."

"Make no mistake, this group (the parents) was tremendous in giving of their time, we could not have done it without each and every one of them," says Johnson of Almont Project Graduation. "All in all, I think the parents did enjoy our experience."

"Fundraising doesn't come easy, but it is a lot of fun working together," adds Chisholm of Dryden Project Graduation. "Most of the time we had fun doing it."

"I know personally I have had a blast watching this all come together and working closely with other parents with the same goal in mind, our seniors and their safety on the night of commencement," says Jordan of Capac's Project Grad. "I have learned a lot about this process and myself. I am looking forward to doing this again for the class of 2010, when my next son will be graduating."

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