THS all-night grad party still going strong
This is the 23rd year for the successful venture, which attracts most of the graduating class
TIGARD - What do you do with several hundred highly energetic, pumped-up teenagers on the night of their high school graduation?
If they're graduating from Tigard High School, you provide a safe place for them to enjoy fun activities all night long.
Connie Ramaekers, the Tigard-Tualatin School District's prevention specialist, started organizing the first party with Carol Beutz in 1983, long before both of them started working for the district.
'Our first party was in 1984,' said Ramaekers, who had a child graduating from THS that year.
The Oregon Department of Transportation was promoting the parties because of the number of graduates drinking and driving and getting involved in accidents.
After attending a workshop, the pair got permission from school officials to plan the party.
Following a presentation in the new Deb Fennell Auditorium, 'parents came forward to help, and we started working on it in January,' Ramaekers said.
'A couple of school board members had seniors, so they were behind it. It really pulled the community together - we did talks in front of the service clubs, and the businesses were extremely supportive.'
That first party was held at Fowler Junior High School with a cruise theme, and 'Fowler was the ship,' Ramaekers said.
Tigard Turns the Tide, which is a non-profit organization formed to support Tigard's youth in making positive choices, empowering them and connecting them to their community and schools, is the agent for the all-night grad parties.
Ramaekers filed the paperwork with the state for the 501 (3) (c) status in 1982, which allows contributions to the all-night party to be tax-deductible.
'I was directly involved for 10 or 12 years and since then have kept track of the chairs and how it's going,' Ramaekers said.
'It's become a huge event. It's an exciting adventure. It's great that we've got committed parents in the community to carry it on.'
This year, those parents are Donna DeLuca and Gail Kelly, who are both parents of seniors and served on committees for parties in previous years.
They started working on the 2007 party a year ago, in April 2006, when they visited 10 to 15 sites and were invited to visit other schools' parties last graduation season to see how they used the facilities.
While DeLuca and Kelly are being secretive about this year's party, they will admit that it is in a facility that has never been used before and will offer at least 25 different activities that should appeal to a wide range of interests.
'We must watch our words, but the kids won't feel intimidated choosing from among the various activities,' DeLuca said.
There are more than 400 students graduating in the Class of 2007, and with similar numbers last year, the attendance was 325.
'We're hoping for more this year,' DeLuca said. 'And we tend to get last-minute ticket sales. We really encourage kids to buy their tickets ahead, but we don't deny anyone.'
Tickets will cost $45 up to April 6 and then cost $60 after that. Scholarships are available as well, and parents must sign releases and provide information for their kids.
At least 50 to 60 adults will be on hand for the June 8 event, which should kick off around 10 p.m. when the buses leave THS and end up around 5 a.m., when the kids typically get tired.
'We are looking for more volunteers,' DeLuca said. 'We do have some parents of undergraduates, and there is a lot to do before the event actually starts.'
During the party, dinner and then breakfast will be served, with snacks offered in between. 'It's a long day, starting with the senior breakfast,' Kelly said. 'We've been lucky in the past and gotten good corporate donations from businesses. We have sent out letters to them.
'We look at it as a party that the community puts on. These kids have been in school for 12 years, and people have cheered them on in sports and at their activities. We view it as a celebration of their graduation.'
For past parties, companies like Coca Cola, Cinnabon, Albertson's, Costco, the Tigard Sub Shop and Alpenrose have donated or given gift certificates.
First Student, the company that buses students around the district, provides buses and drivers for the party.
The all-night party committee, which has about 30 members serving on various sub-committees, holds fund-raisers throughout the year.
'This takes lots of workers,' DeLuca said. 'It's not something that can be done by a couple of people.'
Both women have older children who previously graduated from THS and attended the parties. 'They thought it was a great experience and didn't mind us there,' DeLuca said. 'This is a joint effort to keep these kids safe and give them a good start to the rest of their lives.
'The kids' safety is our biggest concern. They know the rules ahead of time. They're good kids. We've had a lot of fun doing this.'
'It's a nice closure to high school,' Kelly added. 'It's the last time they'll all be together.'