Project Graduation set this weekend

Newly-minted Odessa and Permian high school graduates will have a chance at prizes, scholarships and some cash at Project Graduation this weekend.

Odessa High’s non-alcoholic, all-night event starts at 11:30 p.m. Friday and runs until 6 a.m. Saturday at the Odessa College Sports Center.

Permian’s event runs from 11: 30 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday, also at the Sports Center.

Students stay at the Sports Center throughout the event, but if they leave, they have to sign out as a way of holding them accountable, OHS Project Graduation Chair Chaquisha Dawson said. 

Julie Adams is chairing the celebration for Permian, but she and Dawson are working closely together.

The events draw about half of the graduating class from each high school and feature a DJ, jumpers, games, prizes, bingo and casino night, basketball and volleyball tournaments, a money machine, plenty of food and prize drawings, Dawson said.

“Some of the kids are fortunate,” Adams said. “They have stuff … but there are many kids that don’t the access to get some of the things. To see the look on some of their faces is really priceless,” Adams said.

Dawson added that University of Texas Permian Basin and Odessa College have donated scholarships, but there are other scholarships available. She said it lets the students know that what they do is appreciated not just by their parents, but the community as a whole.

Dawson noted that the events are community and parent run.

“We work together,” Dawson said. “It makes it a little cheaper if we keep the same games, so we don’t have to remove things and move in things. We work very closely together. Like I said, I’ve known Julie for years, but we’re even closer now.  This brings quite the bond.”

Dawson said she’s planning for 500 and Adams for up to 400.

Vanessa Baeza, an 18-year-old senior, plans to attend Odessa College on an athletic training scholarship.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty good experience to hang with your friends one last time before you’re actually off exploring the world and getting more education,” Baeza said.

She added that the party is a way of preventing students from getting into car accidents and making bad decisions.

I think it’s just a way to not letting us get into wrecks or not make bad decisions

“The whole idea of it I feel is good and so I just think it will keep everyone out of trouble,” Baeza said.

Dawson said it’s going to be a lot of fun.

“We do dance contests. I’m going to spruce it up a little bit. I just hope I’m well rested,” she said.

Dawson and Adams said donations and volunteers are still needed. Dawson said the principals usually show up to see what it’s all about.

“Like I said, it’s our final party amongst us, but it’s safe,” Dawson said. “… We just feel that there’s a need for this, because if not, it is said that this is the one night that most accidents happen and if I can contribute and help keep our kids safe, that’s what I’m going to do so it doesn’t bother me to be up all night. Saving one life will make a big difference to me.”

As of Monday morning, Dawson said, $15,000 had been raised, but it takes $20,000 to $25,000 to properly fund it just due to the prizes, bills and renting the facilities.

Adams said she volunteered at Project Graduation last year because one of the assistant principals, Richard Ontiveros, asked her.

“He’s been so good to my kids, there’s no way I could tell him no. I had a senior last year. I volunteered all night there and I just saw what a great night it was and how much it benefited the kids. I was actually very excited about helping. I had no idea the time commitment it takes, but it’s for a cause …,” Adams said.

The surrounding schools offer Project Graduation, as do George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa, OCTECHS and Falcon Early College High School.

Adams said it’s a chance for one last get-together for the entire senior class to just relax and have fun.

“I even tell parents this is the last time you can really be with your kids and their friends and they don’t even realize you’re there,” Dawson said, “but you get to see the moments. …”

Tanner Adams, an 18-year-old PHS senior and son of Julie Adams, will be attending Frank Phillips College in Borger in the fall.

Tanner Adams said he had never been to a Project Graduation, but thinks it’s a great idea.

“The first thing everybody wants to do when they graduate is just go party, so if you can just have everybody in one spot knowing everybody’s safe, that’s always great,” he said.

He’s looking forward to the prizes.

“If it’s free to me, I’m down for anything,” Tanner Adams said.