Grad night
After last year’s graduation ceremony, Marana High School graduate Alex Cano gets covered in Silly String. Organizers for year’s celebrations and grad night parties are looking for donations and volunteers to support the festivities. File photo by Randy Metcalf

The temperature is rising, the days are getting longer and high school graduations are quickly approaching. This means the preparations for grad night parties are coming together, but the organizers are still in need of volunteers and donations for their events.

Each year, organizers at each school hold elaborate after-graduation parties with the intention of keeping the diploma recipients safe that night.

Ironwood Ridge High School organizers try to get at least 90 percent of the graduates to attend the party.

“Then they are off the streets,” said Sue Conto, the chairwoman for the IRHS grad night. “They aren’t out there drinking and driving and being a hazard to themselves and the community.”

To entice the graduates to these special parties, organizers offer meals, casino games, photo booths, jumping castles, virtual reality rides, video games, temporary tattooing and numerous other activities. If those aren’t enough, prizes are given throughout the night at most of the parties, usually followed by one or two big prizes like a new car or $2,011 cash.

The prizes aren’t cheap, and the entrance fees don’t cover all the expenses.

“We’ve lost some funding because people aren’t funding the way they have funded in the past,” said Sherri Dreier, the ticket chairperson for the Canyon Del Oro grad night. “We’ve come up with some different alternative ways of fundraising.”

Organizers are seeking donations of food and beverages, sponsorships of live entertainment or an attraction, scholarships for those unable to afford a ticket, and decoration materials. Organizers are also looking for donations such as gift certificates to places around town, and volunteers to work at the graduation parties, either helping set up, take down or during the all-night event. Volunteers can work as much or as little as they want.

“I’ve met so many people in the community that I would never have had a chance to meet had I not worked on this project,” Dreier said. “Once our kids get into high school, as a parent, it is very difficult to really meet the other parents of students that our kids are friends with. This is a wonderful vehicle to meet more people in the community and keep in touch with what is happening in the community and the school.”

This year marks Marana High School’s third grad party. Organizers are trying to get parents whose children are juniors in high school to help out with the graduation party; that way, the following year they can enjoy the graduation ceremony.

“I visited a lot of other schools that have been doing it for a while, trying to learn how to do this,” said Monica Sutton, the chairwoman for MHS’s graduation party. “It would be so nice to some time have parents of seniors not have to do it the year that they have a senior. It is really difficult to over come and get all the other parents to buy into that concept.

“We’ve got a lot of good parents, we just need more,” Sutton said.

All of the schools offer scholarships or reduced payments for students’ families who are unable to afford the ticket price.

“We don’t want anyone not to come because of finances,” Sutton said.

Donations to each grad night are tax deductible.

Canyon Del Oro High School

Graduation: May 23, 7:30 p.m.

Grad Night theme: African Safari

Cost: $75

To volunteer or donate: Debbie Edmonds, 404-5673

Ironwood Ridge High School

Graduation: May 24, 7 p.m.

Grad Night theme: Dusk til Dawn… The Party’s On

Cost: $65

To volunteer or donate: Sue Conto, 579-0565

Marana High School

Graduation: May 25, 8 p.m.

Grad Night theme: Hollywood Nights

Cost: $75

To volunteer or donate: Monica Sutton, 579-0294

Mountain View High School

Graduation: May 26, 8 p.m.

Grad Night theme: Under the Sea

Cost: $70, $80 at the door

To volunteer or donate: Jenn Griner,


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