What We Do
Project Graduation is an annual community sponsored, parent coordinated event. It is a safe, alcohol, tobacco and drug free All Night Party for area high school seniors following their respective graduation ceremonies. We host 5 duplicated parties over the course of graduation week for the 5 area high schools. Doors open at 11:00 p.m. with the lock in taking place until 5:00 a.m. The individual parties are held so that our local seniors can safely celebrate their graduation.
The all night parties include fun, games, food, prizes and much more. In East St. Tammany, the five parties are held at Fritchie Park Gym. The City of Slidell continues to provide a facility free of charge to the organization. From the minute the graduates arrive, the action begins! Graduates sign in and each one has an opportunity to win a Laptop and printer package and a $500 cash prize. They then “go shopping” for a graduation gift. They turn over their belongings and join the party where they play games, dance, eat, earn “play money” to take chances on other prizes ranging from gas cards, bicycles, dorm refrigerators, televisions, microwaves, fire sticks, Keurig coffee makers, and much more. They also enjoy the inflatables and taking pictures in the photo booth.
With the help of Missi Spinosa, local DJ and singer, the graduates sing karaoke, have relay races and line dance. The graduates have a blast and there is never a dull moment from playing blackjack, and having tricycle races, to entering the money machine that blows “play cash” into their faces. By 5:00 a.m., they are exhausted but have had an incredible night that they will never forget.
Since 1993, the Slidell/Pearl River Project Graduation Board and parent volunteers have worked together to put parties on for the five area high schools (Northshore, Pearl River, Pope John Paul, Salmen and Slidell). Nancy Wood, Kathy Bass and C.J. Ladner all served as the Co-Chairs for the first parties held in the Slidell/Pearl River area at that time.
The first Project Graduation began in Maine in the early 1980’s when 19 graduates died in alcohol-related accidents over a two year period. Realizing this situation could happen in any hometown, the Project Graduation concept grew and was adopted nationwide by many schools and experienced enormous success. In 1992, Mandeville High School was the first school to start Project Graduation in Louisiana. Slidell/Pearl River Project Graduation followed the next year.
Project graduation relies 100% on contributions from local businesses and organizations. We rely on local businesses for donations of in-kind items such as gift cards, coupons, giveaways, food and drinks. We also rely on local businesses for donations of food, drinks, and monetary donations to cover the rental of games, inflatables, a photo booth, decorations, and paper goods. Donations also pay for a DJ, entertainment, a graduation gift for each senior, and numerous prizes. These parties cannot take place without the support of local businesses.
Our annual budget is $60,000. Each year, hundreds of students attend the five parties. While there are various levels of sponsorship, ANY amount helps our cause. All donations are tax-deductible. Individuals or businesses who donate $1,500 or more by TBA for March of 2024 will be added to our event t-shirts.
Our program allows the graduates the chance to spend one last night together, as a class, before they head off to pursue their dreams. Since the inception of Project Graduation in this area, not one young life has been lost to a drinking and driving related accident on Graduation night. Security is provided by Slidell Reserve Police and Acadian Ambulance is on site nightly to ensure the safety of the students.
How we make it work
The five area high schools (Northshore, Slidell, Salmen, Pearl River and Pope) compete throughout the year on the athletic field, and in the classroom to set standards of excellence at their respective schools. East St. Tammany is very unique because through Project Graduation, all five schools come together and work in unity to sponsor the parties, with each school having representation on the board. Each school has a specific area of concentration from registrations, t-shirts, food, entertainment, decorations, check in process, games and security. Then on their respective schools’ graduation night, the “Party Chairs” as they are known, run their own party for their seniors.
The parties are not possible without the countless number of volunteers needed to run each of the five events. While the committee works year round to plan them, each school needs approximately 75 people to assist with their own party.
Parents are needed to volunteer on their student’s graduation night. We welcome the parents of underclassmen as well. Volunteers are needed to welcome students, count fun money and distribute prize tickets, keep the games going, serve food and drinks, man the locker room, take photos and provide extra security. Volunteers are also needed to help set up for the parties at Fritchie Park Gym.