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Letter the Editor: Statesman Journal

Jean Southworth

January 19, 2005

Guest Opinion

Committee plans a drug/alcohol-free party to remember

It's a dark and damp evening in November, but the upper parking lot at Sprague High School is nearly full. Custodians at the front door nod knowingly at the women filtering by, moms hauling heavy notebooks, headed toward the conference room. These notebooks contain the legacy of the alcohol- and drug-free graduation party, a 20-year tradition sustained by parent volunteers.

Every year, the senior class advances, but the graduation party essentially replicates -- with slight modification. The food chairperson: "Last year's chair wrote that the cake went uneaten. How about adding quesadillas this time?" The entertainment chairperson: "Karaoke was a bust in 2004. How about Dance Dance Revolution instead?" The notebook reports from previous years' chairpersons silently advise and encourage us.

Twenty years ago, the party themes related to castles and knights. Now it's all about the beach. Partly an update, the truth is the old decorations simply wore out over time and "succumbed to overuse," as one report described.

Decoration is just one of the 16 committees for this big-budget event, running more than $15,000 in total. We hold ticket prices low and solicit parents and businesses for the balance. We want to keep it affordable for all our seniors.

We are also fanatics about having fun. We want to make our graduation party so enticing that our students can't not come! And come they do; attendance averages 80 percent to 90 percent each year.

So, they'll gather together as a class one last evening on June 10. Then they'll say goodbye. They'll not assemble again until 2015, their 10th-year reunion.

The volleyball awards ceremony in the library echoes down the hall to our conference room meeting. Intermittent volleyball cheering punctuates our current discussion and deliberation.

Our notebooks relay not just a history of party planning but a history of thinking. A question arises before the group: What is the purpose of the party, anyway? Just why are we here?

"To celebrate achievement," someone answers. "To give the kids a great time," adds another. Eventually one mom says, "safety." The room goes still.

The gift we will give the class of 2005 is a safe and alcohol/drug-free party of their lives. The party details may change from year to year, but safety is the forever constant. Consider the literature of our 20-year notebooks: "Celebrating Your Tomorrows ..." "A live, drug- and alcohol-free graduate the morning after: Priceless!"

In recent years, Sprague High has lost a number of students to accident and illness. The collective heart of the school still aches. But in the 20-year history of our graduation parties, on that night, the kids have stayed safe.

They're down at the Courthouse South, riding the mechanical bull, playing casino for prizes, eating quesadillas. What a legacy.

Jean Southworth of Salem is a stay-at-home mother of three and this year's publicity chairwoman for the Sprague graduation party. She can be reached at jsouthworth@comcast.net

 

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