Volunteers Needed for Nonnewaug's GradNite

A GradNite organizer shares her experiences with GradNite and notes that many hands make light work. Decorating the school begins on June 23.


Editor's Note: The following article was written by Jeanne Hawley, a GradNite organizer.

This is the 14th year that a committee of volunteers has hosted a GradNite celebration at .

GradNite is a drug and alcohol free, supervised, all-night celebration for graduating seniors at the high school. Its primary mission is safety. 

Traditionally the night of graduation is a high risk night for teens who might be tempted to attend other parties where alcohol is served. The combination of drinking, driving and high excitement is a dangerous one for teens and puts not only their lives at risk but also the lives of others who might be on the road at that time.

As Pat DiSarro so articulately put it — the best news about GradNite is ‘no news.' Parents wake up the next morning knowing that their graduate is safe and that they had a wonderful time with their friends in a supervised venue.


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Volunteers begin meeting in September to plan a June celebration. They pick a theme, design sets and decorations and plan all night entertainment for attendees.

Kids check in about 9 p.m. and are picked up by parents at 4:30 the following morning. (Kids are not allowed to drive themselves home.)

Entertainment includes things such as climbing walls, segways, obstacle courses, arcade games, caricaturists, music, food, scavenger hunts, prize giveaways, money booths and more. 

GradNite is funded by parent donations, fundraisers and very generous donations by businesses and civic groups in the area. Many area businesses and civic groups have given generously to Gradnite every year for the last 14 years.  They give, understanding that this is the community’s gift to our young people many of whom have attended Region 14 schools together from K – 12th grade. 

Area grocery stores and restaurants donate food, businesses, churches, and civic groups give a donation or donate a raffle prize.  Historically the PTO’s of all three sister schools have always made a donation to support Nonnewaug students.

ASAP, the area drug prevention council generously supports GradNite as does the Lion’s Club in both Bethlehem and Woodbury, The Woman’s Club, the Junior Women’s Club and many many more businesses and churches and civic groups too numerous to list.

Each year, GradNite decorates a giant Thank-You Wall with the names of all the donors and it is displayed throughout the night.  GradNite also invites members of the community to walk through the school before GradNite begins to see the transformation and better understand what GradNite is all about.

Another way that community members help is by attending monthly meetings and helping to design decorations and sets.  They also volunteer to help set-up for GradNite on the day of the event.

Decorating for GradNite this year will begin at 1 p.m. on June 23rd at the high school and continue until about 6 or 7 p.m. Many hands are needed to transform the school.  Even coming in and working for a couple of hours is a huge help.

This is the last year that Jeanne Hawley and Donna Wamser will chair GradNite.  It is their strong hope that this tradition that revolves around safety and celebration will continue. Anyone who has any questions about GradNite or would like to be involved for next year can contact Jeanne Hawley at her e-mail address: jebyers@hotmail.com.


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