Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, June 17, 2001

No-drug events getting popular

By Shayna Coleon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bigger. Better. Brighter.

That's what many coordinators of Project Graduation in Hawai'i said when they were asked to describe this year's all-night alcohol- and drug-free commencement celebration for high school seniors.

They have numbers to prove it.

Project Graduation, an 11-year-old tradition, achieved record attendance and campus participation rates this spring, and coordinators predict the event will continue to reach new heights.

Statewide, attendance rates jumped to 67.8 percent, rising nearly 10 percent from last year. A total of 6,316 students joined in.

Five high schools held their first Project Graduations this year, adding to the previous year's total of 40, said Jan Meeker, the Department of Education's Project Graduation coordinator.

"Some years, we're just hoping to get a little bit more students and schools every year," Meeker said. "That was our goal, but this is the highest we've ever been. This is the highest attendance rate ever."

Seven Hawai'i high schools had more than 90 percent of their senior students attend Project Graduation, and three high schools achieved a 100 percent attendance rate.

Kamehameha Schools held the largest Project Graduation in the state, when 416 students out of 429 graduating from its high school went to the Hawaiian Adventures Water Park last month..

"This was a little benchmark for our Project Graduation," said Shari Akiyama, Kamehameha Schools' senior class adviser and member of the Project Graduation committee. "It was a big excitement and everyone had a blast."

Meeker said even the smallest growth in Project Graduation is significant, considering that when the event started in 1990, only one high school, Roosevelt, held a party.

Meeker noted that participation and attendance rates vary since different parent committees run the event each year.

"Every year you have a different set of parents running the program," said Suzanne Eleam, activities chairwoman for Maryknoll High School's Project Graduation, which had a 100 percent attendance rate this year. "Some years, you have parents who are of a different caliber."

Since some schools often have a difficult time finding parent volunteers, previous volunteer parents have written a "how-to" book about Project Graduation, in hopes that it will encourage others to get involved.

"It makes you feel good," said Meeker, who has been involved with the project since the beginning. "It's the most rewarding project that I've done because you are not only helping seniors have a safe graduation night, but you're affecting everyone else in these students' lives — their parents, their other family members."

"People need to see, and then they'll realize how many people Project Graduation really affects," she said.