2017-05-18 / Top News

Celebrating graduates is a Y project

BY PAUL THEIN
Special to Florida Weekly


2016 grads at last year’s celebration 
COURTESY PHOTO 2016 grads at last year’s celebration COURTESY PHOTO High school graduation is one of the most special and celebrated milestones in the life of any young adult. On Friday night, May 26, just a few hours after an estimated 2,500 Collier County high school students receive their diplomas and are congratulated by proud family and friends, many of them will continue their well-deserved celebration at the 32nd annual Project Graduation all-night party at the Greater Naples YMCA.

The new grads will come from Barron Collier, Golden Gate, Gulf Coast, Immokalee, Lely, Lorenzo Walker Technical, Naples, Palmetto Ridge and St. John Neumann Catholic high schools and also from First Baptist Academy. About 1,100 are expected to party from 11 p.m. until 4 a.m.

Admission is $20 and tickets are on sale now at each participating school.

The night is filled with fun — but no drugs or alcohol — for all, due in no small part to the hard work of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office Youth Relations Deputies, most of whom are well known to the graduates because they work in the schools. The volunteer force behind Project Graduation also includes hundreds of people throughout the community, from teachers and parents of graduates to teams from various business and many civic/service clubs.


Dancing the night away at Project Graduation 2016. This year’s party starts at 11 p.m. Friday, May 26. Tickets are $20 at participating schools. 
COURTESY PHOTO Dancing the night away at Project Graduation 2016. This year’s party starts at 11 p.m. Friday, May 26. Tickets are $20 at participating schools. COURTESY PHOTO Longtime YMCA member Connie Jo Dimond, whose own three grown children all attended Project Graduation parties over the years, has chaired the event committee for 10 years. “I want all of the kids to have a lasting memory of the day they graduated,” she says about her long and continued association with the event. “I know from experience with my own children that this night will always be special to them.”


Fun in the arcade room at last year’s Project Graduation. Fun in the arcade room at last year’s Project Graduation. Activities for partygoers include karaoke, a mechanical bull and a rock-climbing wall. The Y’s main gym turns into a disco with a deejay spinning dance tunes, and two arcade rooms have video games, ping pong, jousting, laser battles, a money machine to win some cash, face painting, a photo booth and a caricature artist to draw special memories.

The pickle ball field behind the Y will be food central, with dishes provided by many local restaurants and manned by their employees and Project Graduation volunteers. A cozy outdoor cafe will serve gourmet coffee and delights, and the Royal Scoop ice-cream truck will once again dish out frozen treats.

Drawings will be held every 15 minutes or so throughout the night for prizes that have been donated by local businesses. More than 300 items from YMCA memberships to gift cards of all kinds have been collected to date. In addition, each participating school has a Principal’s Fund of scholarship money (most range from $500-$1,000) that will be distributed to students from that school at Project Graduation. The Y is also collecting donations for scholarships to be given away during the night.

Finally, every attendee at Project Graduation will be entered in a drawing for a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix provided by the YMCA with assistance from the Naples Auto Donation Center.

There’s still time to help celebrate the Class of 2017 by donating your time or your treasure to this year’s Project Graduation. Volunteers are needed in various capacities from setup to cleanup on Friday Saturday, March 26-27, and donations for prize drawings are always welcome.

For more information, call the Greater Naples YMCA at 597-3148 or visit www.greaternaplesymca.org, where you can also view a three-minute video from Project Graduation 2016. ¦

— Paul Thein is president and CEO of the Greater Naples YMCA, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

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