As graduation nears, high schools all around the country are preparing for sober grad night – a supervised, alcohol-free event meant to decrease drinking and driving related deaths while giving seniors once last night to remember with their classmates.
Since its first class graduated in 2005, Pitman High School has hosted a sober grad night of its own with varying results. Most grad nights are funded by a combination of ticket sales, fund raising and donations, most of which come from alumni. Because Pitman is a relatively new school, it doesn’t have a large alumni pool to pull from, said parent Debra Elliot, who helps plan the school’s sober grad night.
This year, the school’s lack of involved alumni coupled with the country’s recent tax restructure has produced a dip in donations for Pitman’s event, now known as Senior Lock-in.
“This year, our donations dropped off drastically,” Elliot said.
In years past, Pitman has depended on not just monetary donations from the public to help run the event, but also small gifts, such as gift cards and dorm items, to be raffled off. Elliot said that many people have turned away from donating because of the recently-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which encourages taxpayers to pool their gifts in certain years to beat the expanded standard deduction.
“We’re trying to get donors but we’re just not finding success,” Elliot said. “Right now, we’re barely scraping by.”
The tough times for Pitman’s Senior Lock-In come just one year after a seemingly-successful revival for the event. After several years of overspending on events that consistently attracted less than 100 students, Elliot stepped onto the sober grad night committee at Pitman and changed the event, hosting it in-town to cut down on costs and forming a Parent Teacher Student Association so that all campus stakeholders could have a say in the event.
The PTSA was formed after a sober grad night event two years ago where only 11 students showed up, Elliot said, and contributed to the success of the following year’s event, which hosted over 200 students.
“We went out and talked to the seniors that year, asking them what they want,” Elliot said.
By this time last year, the PTSA had received over $4,000 worth of donations, but this year only about $2,000 worth has come in. Elliot is hoping that raffle prizes will be donated, as well as a laptop and television for a grand prize, before the event at Pitman on May 31.
The night will be a fun one for graduating Pitman seniors, who in addition to wining raffle prizes can joust, participate in a bungee run, eat all the food they want and dance courtesy of a DJ. The event is a celebration of the students’ high school experience, Elliot said.
“We would be thrilled with any donations, really,” she said. “We’re trying to give seniors an opportunity to have an experience that is safe, and where we feel like we’ve helped them move on to the next phase of their life with good memories.”
Community members who would like to donate to Pitman’s Senior Lock-In can contact Elliot at 209-585-8710.