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Seniors at Campbellsville and Taylor County high schools won't be celebrating together after graduation this year.
Project Graduation, the annual celebration planned for high school seniors to attend after their graduation ceremony, will be split this year, with Taylor County and Campbellsville schools hosting their own celebrations.
Project Graduation began in 1986 as a way to provide new high school graduates with a drug- and alcohol-free atmosphere to enjoy what could be their last time together before each pursues their life goals.
In the past, Campbellsville and Taylor County graduates have celebrated by attending a joint Project Graduation event at Campbellsville High School.
This year, however, that wasn't possible.
According to Denise Medders, one of the organizers of this year's CHS Project Graduation and the parent of a CHS senior, the schools decided to split the event because this year's graduation ceremonies are a week apart.
CHS will graduate 66 students on May 23. At Taylor County High, 209 students will graduate a week later on May 30.
"Therein lies the problem," Medders said. "We didn't think it was fair for our kids to wait a week and [Taylor County students] don't want to [celebrate] a week early."
CHS and TCHS organizers say their respective Project Graduations are currently in the planning stages.
TCHS Project Graduation public relations spokesperson and senior parent Myra Gribbins said Taylor County's group has met twice to begin forming committees to get the planning of the celebration up and running.
So far, she said, she has seen lots of support from the parents of TCHS students who are eager to help plan the event.
Project Graduation relies on donations from the community and fundraisers. During the night, graduates in the past have participated in various games and earned play money that they used to bid on prizes at the end of the night. Prizes have ranged from computers to dorm refrigerators. The event usually attracts a majority of the graduates, generally as many as 85 to 90 percent.
The Campbellsville Younger Women's Club has until now sponsored and organized the Project Graduation events. That, too, is changing this year.
"They don't have the manpower," Medders said.
Women's club member Mary Reynolds said one Project Graduation event itself is a big project. Two of them, she said, is too much for the club to handle.
She said the club has spoken to groups at TCHS and CHS to lend their expertise and help make the transition easier.
Medders said club members have given this year's organizers some advice to plan the celebration and are letting them use party materials they have collected over the past several years.
Reynolds said the club isn't thrilled about giving up Project Graduation, something they have done for the past 18 years. This year's celebration would have been Reynolds' 12th Project Graduation.
"We're not happy about it," she said.
Reynolds said the club was on the verge of beginning its annual Project Graduation fundraising campaign when they heard the news.
"We have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to coordinate it," she said. "We really enjoy working with the kids and parents.
"We encourage the community to support both schools."
Medders said CHS organizers had considered moving their Project Graduation to Campbellsville University but eventually decided to keep it at CHS' gymnasium and multi-purpose room.
"It won't be much different," she said. "We're still in the planning stages.
"We'll make it work."
Gribbins said TCHS wants to have the celebration on school grounds but hasn't yet finalized its location.
Organizers would like to have it in the TCMS gymnasium. If that's not possible, she said, they might have the event at Campbellsville University.
Gribbins said the TCHS gymnasium is where the school's actual graduation ceremony will be, so it's not possible to have the ceremony there and then move everyone out to set up for Project Graduation.
The reason Project Graduation has always been at CHS, she said, is because CHS has its graduation ceremony in Hamilton Auditorium. This frees the CHS gymnasium and multi-purpose room for parents and others to set up Project Graduation before graduation night.
Gribbins said TCHS' Project Graduation will be much like the joint Project Graduation was, including games and a much-asked-for auction.
At the auction, students will bid on items donated by local businesses.
Since there will be two celebrations this year, Medders said, her concern is that businesses will be solicited twice for donations and she wants business owners to know the reason for this.
Currently, she said, Campbellsville High organizers are collecting money by having fundraisers within the school, such as days on which CHS students, faculty members and teachers pay money to wear a hat.
She said CHS will soon be asking local businesses to donate prizes and refreshments for the graduates.
Gribbins said TCHS is also about to begin its fundraising campaign.
The overall goal of Project Graduation, Medders said, is to offer graduates a safe environment.
"From a parent's perspective, we want to provide a safe final night for our seniors," she said.
"The goal is to provide a celebration, a party, a non-alcohol and drug-free party for our seniors."
Medders said some graduates may never see each other again, and Project Graduation is a way for them to spend a last night together.
She said some students may be bothered that they won't be celebrating Project Graduation with their friends from the cross-town school.
"They have friends," she said. "It's a small town."
Gribbins said she, too, has heard students express some disappointment that the two schools won't be celebrating together. One of those students, she said, was her daughter.
"There's always been such a rivalry," she said, "this [was] the one time they come together."
Though this year's celebration will be split, Medders said, she hopes it won't become a trend.
"It makes it easier [to have both celebrations together]. It's a small town."
Reynolds said that decision will be up to the schools.
"I feel confident they will approach us if the schedules go back [to where graduation is on the same day]," she said.
Campbellsville High School's baccalaureate service will be Sunday, May 18. Class night is planned for Friday, May 16.
To donate money or prizes to the CHS Project Graduation, contact Kay Cox at the Campbellsville Independent School District Office at 465-4162. Monetary and other donations may also be mailed to CHS Project Graduation, c/o Denise Medders, 302 N. Hoskins Ave., Campbellsville, Ky. 42718. Checks should be made to CHS Project Graduation.
Taylor County High School's baccalaureate service will be Wednesday, May 28. Class night is scheduled for Thursday, May 29.
To donate money or prizes to the TCHS Project Graduation, contact Teena Allen at 849-4668 or Ruthetta Clark at 789-2124. Donations may also be mailed to TCHS Class of 2008, c/o Ruthetta Clark, 1085 Newton Lane, Campbellsville, Ky. 42718. Checks should be made to TCHS Class of 2008.