Last week, Oro Valley kicked off the Project Graduation campaign for the Class of 2013. For those of you who may not be familiar, Project Graduation is a program that many school districts have implemented to keep students safe on graduation night

The point is to keep them in one location with fun, food and legal drinks, instead of letting them go out and have parties where the main feature is illegal drinks that will likely lead to bad decisions, driving and possibly injury or death.

After listening to Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp talk about this being the 10th year of them working to save 10,000 lives, it really hit me how important these programs are.

In the past, I wrote stories at newspapers to help with fundraising, but never really looked at the extreme value.

So, why the change? Well, almost three years ago my husband and I adopted a teenager. After a family tragedy, we adopted Tracy and her younger sister. Even though she was a teenager, it hasn’t taken me long to take on that role as her mother, and with it comes this huge amount of worry.

Tracy is a senior. Now, she is preparing for college, looking at her future and getting extremely excited about graduation night.

I really know what it means to worry about her going out that night, being on the streets, and quite possibly being a victim of a fellow graduate who makes a deadly decision on what, at the time, is the best night of their lives to date.

Programs like Project Graduation are extremely valuable because they are established to protect our most precious possessions, our children.

However, as I listened to all the accomplishments in the Oro Valley project, and heard from former students who still value what they got out of Project Graduation, and current students eagerly looking forward to their celebration, the reporter side of me came out (as it often does with any subject.)

In talking with my coworkers, we were stuck on one comment made by Chief Sharp. He stressed to the room of dedicated volunteers, representatives from local businesses and students from area high schools that graduation night over the last 10 years has become the safest night in Oro Valley for our young people.

So, here’s the question. Why aren’t we doing more to protect the safety of our young people all year? What about those nights after home football games? The reports are out there. How often are our law enforcement going to homes where teenagers are hosting parties, and sometimes with their parents’ blessing?

Why aren’t we expanding our efforts further? What about having a Project Friday Night? I know it takes a lot of time, money and resources to make a night like Project Graduation a success, but the mom in me is now saying what about expanding?

A parent in Oro Valley made a comment that he is always concerned about his teenagers. He stressed that Oro Valley, once thought of as a retirement community, is now working to welcome young families. But, the problem remains that there isn’t a lot for teenagers to do. Bored teenagers on a Friday night is never a good thing.

Looking back to years ago when I covered Cochise County, I remember having to write one of those stories that are tough for any reporter to write. I had to write the obituary for a young girl, who months earlier I had photographed in a playoff basketball game at the local high school gym.

However, in this story, I was writing about how she and a group of friends thought it would be fun to go street racing. As you might have guessed, she and the boy driving the car were killed. This happened on a regular Friday night.

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