By Moses Leos III
As her second child prepares to walk the stage as a graduate of Lehman High, Donna Musselman knows how much goes into a student’s senior year.
Ensuring students have a safe way to celebrate after they turn their tassels is an important factor.
Through Project Graduation, a non-profit organization that helps raise funds for drug- and alcohol-free post-graduation celebrations, Musselman believes it provides peace of mind for parents and students.
“It’s a time for all seniors that want to participate and come together and have a great time, one last hoorah before their future endeavors, in a safe and drug- and alcohol-free environment,” Musselman said.
At Lehman High, where Musselman is a co-chair of the Project Graduation committee, which is comprised of senior parents, the process is a yearlong endeavor.
She said the school begins fundraising in September and continues to collect money that pays for the event. Fundraising offsets costs for students, and also pays for prizes that evening.
Over the course of the year, Lehman High’s Project Graduation raised $9,000. What they raised allows them to charge $15 per student to attend.
They also obtained assistance from the community, including local businesses, for funding and gifts.
The 2016 Lehman Project Graduation will be held at Six Flag Fiesta Texas on June 3 for an “all night roller coaster event.”
Deciding on a location is important, Musselman said, as the location spurs interest from students.
She said the LHS PG promoted its event through social media and sent email blasts to parents. They also marketed the event during lunch hours at school.
“There are so many things to do, but we wanted to make it something fun and unique,” Musselman said.
According to Musselman, approximately 40 to 45 percent of the 2016 senior class will attend the event.
At Hays High, the Project Graduation process is also a yearlong event, Jennifer Perry, co-chair of the Hays High Project Graduation, said.
Hays’ Project Graduation also holds various fundraisers, such as the powderpuff football game and Mr. Rebel Pageant Contest, during the course of the year for its annual event.
Perry said the PG committee, also comprised of senior parents, typically works with $5,000 in seed money to start the process. During the year, they get sponsorships from local businesses to assist with fundraising.
In 2016, Hays’ Project Graduation event will be held at the Main Event in Austin. Perry said Hays PG raised about $20,000. Roughly $15,000 will go to the cost of renting the facility overnight.
The remaining balance will go to scholarships that will be given to attendees. Every student what goes, Perry said, will get a $50 gift card to Target. Hays PG is charging students $40 to attend.
Perry said the school allows Hays PG to speak to students to gather input and spur overall interest. The committee talks to students during events such as the Senior Expo and at all lunches.
While registration recently began, she anticipates 200 students registering for Project Gradution. Last year, 220 seniors attended the event.
Finding the right venue that is not only within budget, but is intriguing enough for students to attend is the challenge, Perry said.
She said the committee goes on the “history of the past, where we were the year before” in finding the venue.
A few years ago, Hays Project Grdauation was held at a location in San Antonio that focused on sports, but wasn’t a hit with all students. Last year they chose Main Event, which she said was a success.
“Last year, we had to look around and find out what’s available that can host the event,” Perry said. “There are few places that can host a big event overnight. But last year was flawless. We’ll do it again this year.”
As she watches her second student graduate from Hays, Perry said the program provides peace of mind for parents, as they know where their students are.
“In this situation, you know where they are with the school, and are being taken from Point A to Point B and back on an important night,” Perry said.