Commissioners allocate $5,000 for Project Graduation

Wil Petty

May 12, 2014

In a 3-1 vote, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners voted to provide $5,000 to Project Graduation to help them provide a drug and alcohol free environment for students on graduation night.

Board members Larry Rhodes, William Sands and Gary Roark voted for the measure. Commissioner Gerald Price voted against it, and Judy Porter Poe abstained.

Price voted against and Poe abstained, because Price planned to propose $6,000 should be given to the organization.

“If this motion doesn’t pass, I would like to make a motion to have us allocate $6,000,” Price said.

Before the vote, Project Graduation had raised $13,800 and has a goal of $25,000.

“We have not lost a senior yet due to an accident,” said Diane Eldreth the event organizer for Ashe’s Project Graduation. “We have provided the entertainment that they need to have an all night celebration.”

Eldreth said the $25,000 is used to help pay for the entertainment, as well as provide scholarships to the graduating seniors.

“We try to provide food, entertainment, prizes and all of the things a normal teenager would want in order to stay all night,” she said. “If we do anything else then we defeated their purpose. They will go their merry little way and we’re afraid they’ll get into trouble.”

Project Graduation is a nationwide event where on a school’s graduation night, an adult-supervised party takes place at the high school as a deterrent from alcohol and drugs. Ashe County High School has participated since 1992.

“If we can save one child, just one, then you can’t put a price on that,” Eldreth said.

Roark asked what events take place at the party.

“We actually, when (the students) come in the door we screen the kids to make sure they’re good, and they immediately get a t-shirt and some prizes,” Eldreth said.

Also, Eldreth said they have physical activities, a game room, movie room and different items. They provide a $3,000 scholarship to a student with the provided funds, and a $4,000, four-year scholarship for a student that will be attending Appalachian State.

“The prizes get better the longer you stay (at the party),” Eldreth said. “Once you leave, you cannot come back in.”

Parent chaperones are there as are local law enforcement and EMTs. Students are not allowed to leave, unless there is an emergency and they can be escorted to their vehicle.

“It’s a total community effort,” Eldreth said. “It’s not just four or five of us out there trying to pull this together to do this.”

According to Vicki Herman, of Ashe’s Project Graduation, approximately 98 to 99 percent of graduating seniors attend the celebration.

“Usually the only ones that don’t come, we had one boy getting ready to go into the service the next day, so its those kind of reasons,” she said. “Other than that, just about every senior is there and they stay pretty much all night.”

This year, 196 seniors will be eligible to graduate and each one is allowed to bring a friend.

“We estimate probably in the 22 years, we’ve done this, about 6,000 students, seniors and their guests (have attended),” Herman said “No one has ever been hurt, the emergency room is quiet. There’s nobody being called to get someone that’s wrapped their car around a tree. This has been something for 22 years now.”

Poe said the people at Project Graduation do a great job with the event, and she contributes to the organization as well. She then asked Commissioners Rhodes and Sands to amend their motion to $6,000.

Project Graduation will take place on June 6.

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.