A Shout Out To Project Graduation

High school grad Zach and his grandparents. Photo from Jade Moon

Our son has his high school diploma now. Wow, that was an intense week. The graduation ceremony was beautiful and personal and touching … and intimate, with just 23 seniors in the class of 2012. It was wonderful. But it’s what came after the ceremony I found most intriguing.

Back when I graduated we couldn’t wait to test our new status as adults. I partied on a dark beach with friends. We drank beer and then went for a moonlight dip in the ocean. The water was warm and thick with seaweed that tangled up around us and grabbed like slimy fingers. At the time I thought we were pretty cool. I was unaware those particular waters were and are frequented by sharks. No doubt if they’d found us they would have snacked on some naïve and drunk teenagers. Guess we were lucky. Or maybe we just didn’t look enough like dinner. We survived the night despite our stupidity; didn’t end up drowned, eaten, maimed or killed in a car crash on an island road. But we could have.

It’s different for most

kids nowadays. They’re smarter, and so are their parents, about where and how they celebrate on the big night. I’m giving huge props to the organizers of the alcohol-free, all-night event called Project Graduation. What a great way for the young men and women to party without booze and drunken driving and overall craziness.

Project Grad takes place all over the nation. It’s been around since about 1980. I’ve known about it and even covered it in the news several times. But this was the first time I’ve experienced it as a parent. I was impressed, and I want to give a big shout out to the volunteers who make it happen. In our case, they arranged for the kids to go electric car racing, bowling, and then to the Kaneohe Marine Corp Officers Club for games and prizes and a trek to the beach to watch the sun rise. They had food at every location and more dessert than was humanly possible to consume. Chaperoning was done in shifts – my husband and I took the 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the bowling alley. It was a blast.

Our organizers, Donna Miyamoto and Jolene Chock, are heroes. It was a huge task, yet they managed to cook up a successful event with a limited but creatively manipulated budget. They gave up countless hours of their time to ensure our kids were safe, happy, well-fed and occupied on one of the biggest nights of their lives.

When we arrived at the Officers Club to pick up our son at 6:30 a.m. he was still wide awake and beaming. The kids took their time saying goodbye, as if they wanted to keep the party going. This was, after all, the last time they would all be together as classmates, and I think they wanted to make the moment last forever. Our son was buzzed and happy. Once we got him in the car, though, the adrenalin rush disappeared – and he promptly fell asleep.

So thanks, Jolene and Donna. And thanks to all the dedicated parent organizers of Project Graduation events everywhere – here and across the nation. You help make the memories our kids will cherish for a lifetime. And you keep them safe.