Project Graduation

Written by Teresa Dennard.

Parents strive to keep kids safe

Seniors at Carthage High School have the opportunity this year to experience a safe and fun way to celebrate graduation with their peers. Parents Leah Hanks and Tonia Crittenden are working hard to organize an event that will have the seniors begging to get in. Graduation at CHS is Friday, June 6. Those graduating will have the opportunity to visit with family and friends after the ceremony, then at 11:30, the Commons Area will be opened for a night that guarantees a fun time for all those in attendance.


The concept of Project Graduation originated in Maine in response to the deaths of 18 teenagers in alcohol-related highway crashes. Seven of the teens were from one community.

Parents were devastated and determined not to let this happen again. In an effort to prevent the incapacitating injuries and deaths that were often the result of teens driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, the parents organized the event after graduation. In the early 80’s, a TxDOT employee learned of Maine’s success and utilized some of the same ideas and experiences and adapted the program for Texas high schools.

Hanks has been in contact with personnel from Henderson High School who have organized a similar event with their seniors. “They have had great success with their Project Graduation for several years,” says Hanks. “Of the 200 graduates, about 180 of them attend the event.” The Carthage mothers are planning to have lots of really great door prizes and fun activities to keep the kids entertained. A big screen TV and an iPad are some of the big prizes to be given away, plus lots of smaller items as well. Food will be in abundance and the gym will be open for volleyball and basketball tournaments. Movies will be shown in the auditorium and a DJ will spin some tunes for a little dancing time. Bounce houses and a water slide will also provide entertainment for the students.

Seniors must sign up ahead of time to attend the event and they will be checked off as they enter on Friday night. “There’s no way we can force 18 year olds to stay somewhere, but we want them to know if they sign up and don’t come, we’ll call their parents. When they check in, we’ll take their keys, and if they leave early, we’ll call their parents also. The kids will be allowed to go home at 4am.” It takes a great deal of money to put on this type event. Several sponsors are already on board to help make sure the kids have a safe way to celebrate their graduation. They include: Bill’s Meat Market, Bugged Out Exterminating, Deadwood Methodist Church, Dr. Carl Grant, Farmers’ Bank, First State Bank, Kids Journey, LP Corporation, Panola National Bank, Whataburger. Anyone interested in being a sponsor can contact Hanks at First United Methodist Church or call Carthage High School. “It seems we’ve had lots of tragedy in our area in recent years with our young people,” states Hanks. ‘If we can make this one night safer, all the time and money spent will be well worth the effort.”