January 19, 2005
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
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
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
"To celebrate achievement,"
someone answers. "To give the kids a great time," adds
another. Eventually one mom says, "safety." The room goes
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 firstname.lastname@example.org