While graduation from high school is traditionally a seminal moment in the lives of many students as they embark on a new life in college or set their sights on a career path, the memorable occasion is too often marred by potentially dangerous behavior that could follow a wayward young person well into adulthood.
That’s why we laud the accomplishments of Lenoir City High School Project Graduation, a Parent Teacher Student Organization program that encourages recent graduates to stay off the roads and spend the night among friends in an alcohol- and drug-free environment in which students are virtually guaranteed to wake up the next morning filled with an abundance of hope and enthusiasm for their new journey, rather than burdened right out of the gate with regret for a series of bad decisions.
For sure, no night of revelry, however fun and euphoric it might seem in the moment, is worth getting in trouble with police or putting other peoples’ lives in jeopardy, and, by all accounts, more and more young people are hearing that message loud and clear. Project Graduation, now in its ninth year, has grown from a participation of about 35-50 students in its inaugural year to 130 people who attended the post-graduation fiesta last spring.
PTSO president Shelley Pace said this year she would like to see more than half of the LCHS graduating class attend the event, which is set for 11 p.m.-6 a.m. Saturday at The Grove Church in Lenoir City. “It’s just to give the kids one last time to spend the night together in a safe ... environment and keep them off the roads,” Pace said. “... Maybe we can have one less school tragedy. That’s kind of how we look at it from that point of view as a mom.”
The event will include dancing, karaoke, music, games, free food, prizes, soccer and football competition and other activities.
While similar events have cropped up at a handful of schools in East Tennessee, the program seems to be unique to Lenoir City High School, at least in Loudon County. “Loudon (High School) doesn’t do it,” Pace said. “Greenback doesn’t do it. I know Farragut does it, and Bearden does it, but other than that I don’t know of any other schools.”
Just 10 years ago, parents of high schoolers no doubt engaged in more than a little hand-wringing as students who went out to celebrate graduation may or may not have abided by curfew and parental guidelines about staying safe and making smart choices. Today, LCHS students have an outlet and a place to celebrate that will set their parents’ minds at ease and bring kids home in one piece.
That is a program worthy of emulation, and we encourage Loudon High School, Greenback School and other schools in East Tennessee to follow suit and institute their own events that will give students an alternative on graduation night.
The truth is, students will find a way to get together and celebrate one way or the other. The dutiful and responsible step for parents and educators is to make sure they have the opportunity to do so safely without being a risk to themselves or others.