Project Graduation

Enid High School seniors volunteer for hypnotist Steven Stone with White House Productions during Project Graduation in 2020. (Photo by Denise Tucker)

While Enid High School has a full slate of events this spring to celebrate its graduating seniors, a group of parents are planning another long-standing tradition.

Organizers of this year’s annual Project Graduation party for seniors have set a goal of raising $25,000 to fund this year’s expenses, which aren’t covered by Enid Public Schools.

“If we would’ve been doing this all year, we would be at the $25,000,” said organizer Susan Brinley, an EHS parent.

While planning began in March, Brinley said the group of parents she heads has already raised $10,000 in donations, which are tax-deductible.

Project Graduation, set after May 21’s planned graduation commencement, is an all-night, substance-free lock-in party for seniors only, as a celebration of their major milestone.

Brinley said the party would be the last time students could enjoy themselves and have fun together as a class.

Around half of the senior class typically attends Project Graduation, which is held in the EHS gym and is chaperoned by parents and adults, Brinley said.

Activities this year will include a hypnotist, games, door prizes and food. Teachers also are donating guessing candy jars that students who guess the closest amount will get to take home at the end of the night.

Brinley said at first she wasn’t sure the kids would get to have a Project Graduation after a “year of COVID.”

She said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools shortened the time for parents to plan and fundraise for Project Graduation.

“Anytime anything happens that’s half-normal, you reach for it. … We need some sense of normalcy, and the kids just need some place safe to go and hang out that’s adult-chaperoned,” she said. “It just needs to happen this year.”

Last year’s graduating seniors whose in-person graduation ceremony was delayed until June still went to their party, though Brinley said it was half as long.

Funds ended up being left over, having gone unused as deposits for activities like a mechanical plastic bull and a photo-booth, Brinley said, calling it a gift from the class of 2020.

She said a couple of high school administrators had asked her daughter, Hanna, who is senior class council president, if she knew who was in charge of this year’s Project Graduation.

The two then started asking around for names by texting parents and posting on Facebook, but nobody knew anything.

Before long, Brinley herself took on the responsibility of what she said could be a full-time job. She then began asking parents to come on board, while her daughter did the same with classmates.

Parents started meeting in March. Around 30 seniors came to their house last week, asking how to help raise money. Several groups of about a dozen seniors then began visiting local businesses to ask for support.

Brinley said those in-person visits — sometimes to EHS alumni who’ve had their own Project Graduation in the decades it’s been held — have meant more than dropping off a donation letter.

She said one business owner told her, “There’s not any way I can turn them down.”

Some local businesses have donated funds; others have asked to donate prizes, Brinley said.

Parents also have had eat-out fundraising nights at Chik-fil-A, and Brinley said one or two more are in the works.

T-shirts also are being sold, as are yard flamingos with OU or OSU logos that can be placed in either your own or someone else’s yard as a silly prank.

Further donations are being accepted through checks made payable to Enid Project Graduation Class of 2021, with the tax ID# 73-1427020. These can be mailed to EHS Project Graduation, PO Box 1335, Enid, OK 73702.

Donation levels include: Platinum level, $1,000; gold level, $500; silver, $250; and bronze, $100.

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Ewald is copy editor and city/education reporter for the Enid News & Eagle.

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