Substance-free celebration planned graduation night at high school gym

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Orange Grove Journal

End of the year graduation parties are almost considered a ritual for graduating seniors. For many it's the last time to talk to their friends from school, as they go off to prepare for the rigors of college.

This year, community leaders, local businesses and Orange Grove ISD have come together to offer the Class of 2007 a once-in-a-lifetime experience, in the form of a graduation celebration following the graduation ceremony.

The Senior Class of 2007 will be having a "Substance Free" Celebration, with a "007" theme, on graduation night, May 25. The event will be held in the high school gym and students can check in from 11 p.m. to midnight.

A graduation celebration has been missing in Orange Grove for several years, officials said. This year though, through a grant opportunity with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), community interest was spurred once again.

Co-organizer for the event, Darren York, said there is a need in the community of Orange Grove to host such an event for graduating seniors.

"We've gotten a lot of good community response, and we have a fourth of the senior parents participating in or are actively involved in the project," he said. "There are people from every area - school, churches and businesses, pitching in with donations or working as chaperons for the event."

"It's important that we give our kids a safe celebration option. Based on the feedback we received so far, we expect three-fourths of the senior class to participate this year."

The TxDOT grant contributed $400 toward the event, with an additional $2,500 raised from individuals and community business members. The project will continue to accept donations of money and door prizes for the event up until graduation day.

Anyone interested in helping or making a donation can contact Darren York at 815-9231 or Darren.york@familybasixs.org, Lisa York at 815-9238 or lyork@ogisd.net, or Carrie McDonald at cmcdonald@ogisd.net.

At midnight, the doors will be locked and in order for a student to leave the party, a parent must come in person to pick them up.

Parent volunteers and teachers will be on hand to chaperone. For the sake of student safety after a night of no sleep, organizers are requiring all students attending the event be dropped off and picked up the next morning. The event will end at 6 a.m.

There will be a $10 admission fee with every student receiving a souvenir T-shirt, DVD, plenty of food and opportunities to win lots of prizes. A DJ will be on hand, and organizers are working to have karaoke available for the students.

The Class of 2007 can look forward to a night of Star Wars Dodge Ball competitions, 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, video game contests, Texas Hold 'Em tournaments as well as other activities that will be going on throughout the night.