By Conrad Dudderar
A new Yukon High School graduation-week tradition started — by necessity — returns Thursday night.
The 30th Annual YHS Project Graduation will be 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. May 20 outside at Miller Stadium, 1777 S Yukon Parkway.
Starting in May 1991 and for the first 28 years, Yukon’s graduation night party was hosted by Redlands Community College in El Reno.
Last year, the event venue changed to the YHS football field due to COVID-19.
This new outdoor tradition continues this week for the 30th anniversary event.
“After graduation rehearsal, the seniors will come over to the football field and enter through the home side,” YHS Project Graduation President Janet Bell said. “We will feed them and there will be different areas to take pictures.
“There will be midway games and bingo, and our normal entertainment.”
Yukon’s graduating seniors will have chances to win prizes, and there will be other prize giveaways throughout the evening.
Project Graduation provides Yukon’s graduating class the chance to gather for a night of fun before heading off to college and career.
The annual celebration provides a safe, alcohol- and drug-free graduation party for Yukon seniors.
The YHS Project Graduation committee has had to adapt over the past two years due to COVID-19.
“Hopefully, this is the last of the ‘crazy’ years,” said Bell, who has a graduating senior. “But a lot of good things have come out of it. It made us start rethinking how we honor our graduates.
“We do appreciate the support of our community. The parents raised quite a bit of money, knowing we weren’t able to have a lot of our normal fundraisers.”
When Project Graduation was an overnight post-commencement celebration at Redlands, participation among YHS students typically was around 90%.
It was about 50% in 2020 because the event had to be moved to mid-summer when many new YHS grads were out of town.
Bell expects strong participation among the 557-member YHS Class of 2021.
“They aren’t required to be there, but we invite anyone who wants to attend, to attend,” she said.
YHS Project Graduation fund-raising efforts were curtailed this year due to COVID restrictions. Primary fundraisers were an online auction, Miller wear sales, T-shirt sponsorships, and a luminary walk.
“We’ve had an incredible response from the community,” Bell shared. “We even received a donation from Carole Garner, one of the founders of our Project Graduation. She personally donated for the 30th anniversary.”
Several 1991 YHS graduates will participate in Thursday night’s big event.
Attendees should not leave hungry.
“We’ve had a wonderful response from local restaurants who donated food, local banks who donated water and Frito-Lay who donated chips,” Bell added. “The only things we have to purchase are some Gatorade and candy.”
One new fundraiser, the luminary walk at Chisholm Trail Park, ended up being a rousing success. Sponsorships were secured for about 70% of this year’s graduating class.
“We hope the luminaries because a tradition going forward,” Bell said.
About 25 volunteers will help during Thursday’s big event.
Bell gave a huge “shout-out” to the decorating committee. Most members of this small group no longer have students in school – yet they return each year to give their time and talents.