Party Hearty – But Safely – This Spring

During May and June, local high schools will be a sea of celebra-tion, beginning with prom and continuing through graduation. Both of these events are critical rites of passage for young adults. Both also are accompanied by some anxious feelings and trepidation for parents. Many parents have found a way for their teens to celebrate these important events while staying safe in the form of parent-organized after-prom and grad-night parties.

“[Supervised] grad night celebrations save lives,” says Karen Dombek, a former board member of GRADS, a non-profit organization that advises parents about how to pull off a successful grad-night party. Dombek says that it’s the graduation class’s last time to be together as a class. “These events are a full evening of fun and bonding. It’s the last party thrown by parents for their children before they go off college, the military or wherever. It is a very emotional time.”

Some after-prom and grad-night celebrations are planned with parental supervision, but many are not. Parents know about the unsupervised events and worry about their children’s safety. Many schools devise their own solutions by sponsoring after-prom or grad-night gatherings.

“These parent-organized grad nights are now common, but it wasn’t always that way,” Dombek says.

Local community groups and businesses help make these traditional party nights safer by sponsoring supervised parties free of alcohol and drugs. “The trick is to make the party so enticing that there’s nowhere else the kids would rather be,” Dombek says. “Think about it. Here’s a party where you are entertained, fed, you can win prizes, play games and enjoy your friends – and all you have to do is show up.”

At some celebrations, the kids are locked in; at other parent-organized events, the teens are bribed to stay. “We offered prizes every 15 to 30 minutes,” says Cheryl Cox, who was a key after-prom planner at the high school her children attended. “We held the after prom at the bowling alley. The kids enjoyed cosmic bowling, dancing and breakfast with their friends,” Cox says. “We had all sorts of door prizes, with the final drawing being held just before 5 a.m. That lucky senior walked away with the grand prize – $100 cash!”

Other ideas may include giving away a car, carnival-type games, dancing and karaoke singing. Also supply tons of food. Many high schools transform their school gyms into an elaborate party site. Other schools hold their event at a local venue.

“There are some 20 different committees needed to make grad night [parties] happen – everything from food and decorations to safety and publicity, says Pat Koenekamp, who co-chaired her son’s high school after-prom party for two years. Along with her husband, Martin, she’s even organized a committee in charge of feeding the parent work parties, which is a good idea.

“We want to know where our seniors are and that they’re having a safe time,” Koenekamp says. “Parent involvement is the key to making this event a success.”                           “This is the last time they will all be together as a group,” she says. “These kids have worked hard to achieve their goal of graduation, and this is a safe way to tell them how proud we are of their accomplishments. Grad nights are a parent’s gift to their child.”

Claire Yezbak Fadden, a San Diego-based freelance writer, is the mother of a high school senior.

How to Get Started

If your child attends a high school where supervised after-prom parties and grad-night celebrations are a tradition, then all you need to do is contact the committee chairperson to volunteer your time and talents. If you’re interested in starting an after-prom or grad-night celebration, the following information will get you started in the right direction, especially if you have another year before your teen’s big event.

Start planning early. The best time to get started is at the beginning of the school year. You can shorten your planning period, but anything less than four months will make the task much harder to do. But don’t give up. It can be done.

Request that the school promote your event. Ask that the after-prom party or grad-night celebration be included in the school’s graduation and prom information. You may need to remind the school administrators about this a couple of times.

* Inform all school parents. Even if a student isn’t graduating this year, he will be in the next one to three years. Solicit help from every grade level.

* Host a planning session. At this initial planning session, request coordinators for the following committees: decorations and setup, food and beverage, supervision/security/cleanup, door prizes/donations and publicity. Have the coordinators determine their own committee’s needs and coordinate volunteers.

* Schedule regular meetings. These allow you to monitor each committee’s progress.

* Prepare a budget. Include the cost of a party location, publicity, entertainment, and food and beverages. Use this to set a ticket price.

* Publicize and promote your event on campus. Make and post signs and get the event included on any electronic news bulletins parents receive.

Online Resources

* After Prom Party Guide by Lori Heatherington

*  Party 411: Ideas, Themes, Tips

* Reason to Party: Ideas, Themes, Tips

* Helping Students Plan Safe Parties

Categories: Activities, Things To Do