SHERIDAN — Any one of the roughly 220 graduates of the Sheridan County School District 2 class of 2015 could be walking away from graduation with a certified pre-owned Cadillac, that is, if they attend the drug-free and alcohol-free after-party.
The 20th annual Project Graduation party will bring back favorite features of the free event for grads including inflatable games, food, the casino room and tons of prizes. Among those prizes, for the first time ever, will be a new car courtesy of Prime Rate Motors, and all the graduates have to do to be eligible to win is stay at the party until the bitter end: 3 a.m.
“Our goal is to keep kids from drinking and having accidents the night of graduation,” said Marcia Harper, committee treasurer and marketing coordinator. “In the last 20 years, for Sheridan County, we have been successful in that.”
The party is funded entirely by local donations and is planned by a volunteer committee of eight.
Strong annual support of the cause means every student who attends the party wins a prize. Some of the larger prizes include $1,000 in cash, two $500 scholarships to the University of Wyoming, a $750 scholarship to any college and one year of free tuition at Sheridan College.
Though the large prizes are saved for the end, there is a prize room at the event that gives away something every five minutes, the chips that are won in the casino room can be traded in for prizes like iPads and laptops, and the Bingo room gives away $5 cash for every Bingo. If the diploma didn’t make them feel like a winner, the party surely will.
Held in the Early Building at Sheridan Junior High School from 9 p.m. on Sunday through 3 a.m. the next morning, the activity choices are almost as plentiful as the prizes. The rock wall and swimming pool are both opened up, a laser tag maze is constructed in the auditorium, the gym is filled with various inflatable games like blow-up sumo wrestling and jousting and a hypnotist is even brought in at 1 a.m. to entertain the crowds.
Any graduating seniors from Sheridan High School, Fort Mackenzie High School or home-schoolers who live in Sheridan County are eligible to attend, and generally about 70-80 percent of the class does.
“I’m hoping the car will increase our numbers, and I’m hoping to break that 90 percent number this year,” Harper said. “But the one area we are always lacking is volunteers. We have a select few people who volunteer every year but it’s the set-up and the tear down that is overwhelming. These events combined require roughly 100 volunteers, and if we don’t get those volunteers, which most times we don’t, we need to call in all our friends and family to get it done.”
The event is not a lockdown, meaning the students can leave at any time. But there are no in-and-out privileges and they must be present to win when the final prize drawings begin. Keeping the inside of the party secure, there will be backpack checks conducted at the door with the help of the Sheridan Police Department and there will be a locker room attendant on duty all night.
“There was a group of local people here 20 years ago that thought this was a good idea and started it,” Harper said. “Strangely enough, my mom was on the originating committee and that is how it goes. These things just get passed down from generation to generation in Sheridan to help our future generations.”
Ready to volunteer?
- Contact the person listed with the specific area you want to support, or email SheridanProjectGraduation@gmail.com.
- On May 23, Project Graduation volunteers will be grilling and selling food at the soccer tournaments to raise money for the graduation event. To help, call Pam at 752-4142.
- Businesses around Sheridan can donate merchandise as prizes, but volunteers are needed to solicit the businesses. To help, call Marti at 751-4169.
- To help with setting up the building on May 23, overseeing the party (time slots available between 9-11 p.m. and 11 p.m.-1 a.m.) on May 24, and cleaning the building after the party on May 25, call Sheila at 752-5331.