In 1994, a project was begun in Jacksonville with the purpose of keeping high school seniors safe on one of the most important nights in their young lives. Project Graduation came into being in our city with not only the intent of celebration but with the objective of keeping our seniors safe. In past years, there had always been a problem with pasture parties after graduation ceremonies and all that goes along with the partying. A local resident knew of a Project Graduation being held in her home town of Mt. Pleasant.

Barbara Turner began speaking to parents of seniors and asking what their opinion was of doing the same type of celebration in Jacksonville. A number of parents pulled together and produced the first Project Graduation celebration for the 1995 Jacksonville High School senior class. The party was a lock-in with seniors and their guests playing games in order to earn Indian Bucks with which they could later buy items at an auction. Scholarships and electronics were some of the many prizes awarded with the grand prize being a new car.

Students were not released until the following morning whereby they were bused back to the school parking lot. Project Graduation is now in its 12th consecutive year and it truly is a “labor of love” in that fund-raising for the next year begins immediately following graduation.

Thousands of dollars are necessary to hold the event in order to have meals for the hundreds of students who attend along with the prizes that are purchased to help them in future endeavors. One of the favorite prizes has become the lap top computer.

The new car has been replaced with awarding 10 lucky seniors $1,000 in cash through a drawing. Not everyone will be attending college, and the cash and other prizes help them jump-start their future.

Seniors are already getting excited about party night. One student who has attended as a guest in the past said, “I’m really looking forward to it because it’s my senior year party and I know how special it is. After my cousin’s graduation last year, there was nothing for her to do and it seemed a big letdown. After being with the same group of people for 12 to 13 years, it’s a great way of saying goodbye, plus there are no pressures.”

Many are not aware that Project Graduation is an actual corporation with a board and is listed as a 501(c)3. Therefore, any donations made are considered tax deductible.

This all would not be possible without the help of the community and local businesses. The members of Project Graduation are indebted to the community for helping keep children safe on such a special day.

Students and parents have worked hard through multiple fundraisers, such as the Chuck Wagon Lunch, football parking, mum sales, Coke sales, a haunted house, newspaper recycling, fern and geranium sales and most recently the senior play. Project Graduation currently has a rodeo in the works and asks for continued support of Project Graduation through donations.

Donations are still needed to make graduation night a success. Should you wish to contribute, you may send funds to Patrice Minton, P. O. Box 1887, Jacksonville, TX 75766.

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