|Wakulla Times article --Project Graduation May 2012|
PROJECT GRADUATION IS A TIME FOR WAKULLA HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS TO CELEBRATE SAFELY
BY DONNIE CRUM
During the past several weeks members of the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office have been working with Wakulla Springs Lodge and Wakulla Springs State Park officials to create what we hope will be the very best Project Graduation for the Wakulla High School Class of 2012.
Since becoming sheriff, I have been thinking of ways the community can make Project Graduation really special for the group of departing seniors. In past years we have sent the students to Fun Station in Tallahassee, but this year I wanted to make sure we keep our seniors in Wakulla County.
What better way for the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office and our Public Safety partners to give seniors a memorable experience than to take advantage of a jewel in our county to create a special day for students within our county.
We have drawn from the expertise of a number of our employees at the sheriff’s office to organize this massive event. We are very excited about what we have decided and think the 2012 event will be talked about by Wakulla High School students in the coming years.
This year the event will be held Thursday, May 31 from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, June 1. Seniors will gather as a class for one final time before they take part in their graduation ceremony when Commencement is held Friday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m.
We have polled a number of high school seniors to see what they would like to do for their special party and we have been told that a beach party and bon fire rank high on their list. We don’t have a beach facility big enough to accommodate more than 200 seniors so we found them an option that was just as good or better. Wakulla Springs will allow our students to swim during the day and enjoy a bon fire after the sun goes down.
This is the 29th Annual Project Graduation and in past years we have used school facilities, campgrounds, private businesses and private property. The importance of the event is to provide a special day for our seniors while also keeping them safe from the temptation to mix alcohol with the operation of a motor vehicle.
We have selected the day before graduation because our experience teaches us that attempting to hold a special event after the Commencement exercises does not draw as large a gathering as families host their own special event for their graduating seniors.
Wakulla Springs Lodge has given us private party status to the lodge and the park and we are planning a variety of items to keep our students entertained for the 12 hours they will be with us.
Wakulla High School seniors will receive commemorative glow in the dark bracelets when they enter the park and are greeted by a school resource officer and park security. Once the students arrive in the park they will be given an opportunity to swim at the Wakulla Springs beach under the supervision of our chaperones and Wakulla Springs lifeguards.
We will be organizing games and contests for those students who do not want to swim and we are very excited to be able to offer the students jungle boat rides down the Wakulla River during the afternoon as well.
Since our teenagers are sure to get hungry we are working with Cape Leisure and the Wakulla Springs Lodge to provide a dinner in the lodge dining room. The seniors have expressed an interest in eating fried chicken, barbecue pork, macaroni and cheese, salad items and beverages. But that is not all the food that will be available. There will also be snacks, ice cream and pizza provided during the event.
Games and contests will be held outside until darkness arrives and the lodge will be used after dark. We are also excited about the opportunity to offer Karaoke contests for individual students or groups of seniors.
We will have a bon fire on the west side of the lodge where students can socialize and perhaps cook up S ‘mores. Gift drawings will be held every hour with a grand prize drawing held between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. We hope to have some of the prizes be items that will help the students further their education. But the prizes are dependent on how much money we can raise for the event.
To create an event of this size requires a great deal of coordination and a large budget. We are soliciting donations from our business community as well as from vendors and friends of the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office.
We were one of the first Sheriff’s Offices to organize and celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating seniors and we do this at no cost to the senior. This year the expenses may total more than $10,000.
Contributions may be mailed to the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office, 15 Oak Street, Crawfordville, FL 32327. Please make the donation check out to the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office with attention to: “Project Graduation.”
We are still working on the details, but we hope to have a “celebrity” visit with the seniors during the night. We never really know how large a turnout of WHS seniors we will get but we know that the graduating class is 273 students.
We are planning to have photographs taken of the seniors during the night and we have arranged to have the Wakulla High School Video Production Class create a night of memories that will be provided to seniors in the form of a video.
With the message we want to deliver, we hope to have Renee Napier of the Meagan Napier Foundation for DUI Awareness deliver an informal message to students about the dangers of drinking and driving.
We have attempted to think of everything a graduating senior could want on the second to last day the Class of 2012 will be together as a group. I want to thank you in advance for your positive response and for helping the Class of 2012 have one last time of celebrating safely as a group, in a fun-filled environment, before they travel their separate ways and become our future leaders.
Again, thank you to the Wakulla County community for helping the sheriff’s office and public safety put on a memorable event.
There have been several other activities that involved the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office during recent weeks.
• The WCSO was represented at the Wakulla County Special Olympic Games at Wakulla High School. School Resource Officer Deputy Scott Rojas drove his patrol vehicle in the opening ceremonies which helped make the event very special to a wonderful group of students who were competing in track and field events and Bocce at the school.
• The WCSO and Waste Pro sponsored a golf tournament at Wildwood Country Club which raised several thousand dollars for the Citizens Support Others Fund. The fund provides money to victims of crimes who need assistance during very hard times.
• A case of a missing child was solved in 30 minutes in Panacea. A young boy slipped away from his mother while she slept, but was discovered unharmed in a vehicle in the woman’s yard.
• A Canadian from Quebec was delighted that one of our honest citizens found a lost fanny pack and wallet containing a substantial amount of cash and turned the lost property in to the sheriff’s office. The Canadian, Andre Lamontague, and his motorcycle party were very pleased to get all of the lost property back. I recognized Johnny B. Ross, Jr. of Crawfordville with a plaque for his honesty and kindness for turning the missing property into the sheriff's office.
• The WCSO has applied for grant money through the Department of Transportation to provide funding for a Teen Driver Improvement Program which, if funded, will help train our future drivers about not being distracted while driving. The grant is designed to reduce the number of teenagers involved in traffic crashes in Wakulla County.
• In the fourth quarter of 2009 through 2010 and 2011, 57 16-year-olds were involved in Wakulla traffic crashes; 79 17-year-olds were involved in crashes; 73 18-year-olds were involved in crashes and 51 19-year-olds were involved in crashes. Thankfully, we did not have any fatalities to report. The grant is valued at $63,000.
• A $285,000 speed control grant will increase our efforts to reduce the number of overall crashes in the county by providing education, technology, saturation patrols, officer training and additional funding for overtime manpower.
• A $30,000 DUI grant will allow the WCSO to focus on enforcement of driving under the influence during the months of May through September.
• A $3,000 grant will provide computer software to submit traffic citations electronically to the clerk of the court’s office rather than having to go through the records division at the sheriff’s office.
• We also said goodbye to Captain Jackie Norrman of the Corrections Division. Jackie retired after more than 20 years of dedicated service to Wakulla County. We also lost Detective Erika Buckley to the State Attorney’s Office in Leon County. She did a fantastic job as part of the Criminal Investigations Division. Both Jackie and Erika will be greatly missed, but we wish them both well in their future endeavors!