EHT Project Graduation shows grads there’s no place like home (VIDEO, SLIDESHOW)

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – There was a moment just before 11 p.m. on Friday, June 20 when the nerves settled in. What if no one comes?

“I haven’t eaten all day because of my nerves,” said Lauren Schlam, one of the many dedicated steering committee members of Egg Harbor Township Home and School Association’s Project Graduation, who spent months planning and creating the theme and then hours setting up the decorations and game stations that make the all-night event a special memory for the graduates.

“I’ve been doing this for years, so you think I would get used to it, but I always get nervous right before.”

Now in its 20th year, Project Graduation gives graduates a safe, drug- and alcohol-free place to celebrate their achievement and spend time with their classmates before they go their separate ways.

This year, 820 tickets were sold in advance, but it still seemed like everyone got a little bit anxious in the final minutes leading up to the opening of the doors.

“Everyone get ready, we’re about to open the doors. Showtime!” someone shouted at exactly 11 p.m.

Four doorways that had been covered in paper to conceal the event’s secret theme opened, and it was clear that the nerves were unneeded. Lines of excited graduates and their guests were here to enjoy the fruits of all that hard work and fundraising.

The high school is transformed so much by the murals, drapes and natural elements like mulch that were brought in for decorations that many students get lost in the same hallways where they spent the past four years. The students get to enjoy games, earn prizes and eat all night. Upscale prizes are awarded hourly to encourage students to stay the night, and to avoid getting injured or worse in unsupervised celebrations that could include drugs or alcohol.

One of the most popular areas each year is the pool area, which this year was draped in green to look like the Emerald City. Here, students could relax on oversized floats, pick up some free green sunglasses and glow necklaces, get temporary hair highlights or seek guidance from a fortune teller.

Outside of the scores of volunteers and chaperones, local businesses support the event as well. Major sponsors include the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education, Egg Harbor Township Municipal Alliance and the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks Lodge 2563. The Municipal Alliance has donated at least $35,000 over the past 20 years, and this was the second year the Elks secured a $1,000 Gratitude Grant from its national foundation to help fund Project Graduation.

Other sponsors included AkPharma (Alan and Peggy Kligerman), AtlantiCare, Ocean City Home Bank, Parresia Church, Print Art, Friends of Mainland Police Benevolent Association Local 77, Central United Methodist Church, Coast Tile and Marble Supply Inc., Juliano’s Pub and Grill, Cardiff Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 Ladies Auxiliary, Primary Housecall Providers, the Wollerman family, the Efstatos family, Mays Landing Country Club, Egg Harbor Township High School Crew Booster Club, and St. Katherine Drexel Church.

Many other businesses donated food, gift cards and supplies for the event and there were hundreds of participants in the steering committee’s fund-raising raffle.

In addition to the school board and district administration, the event received support through the Egg Harbor Township Police Department, the district’s facilities and maintenance crew and the school’s art club muralists.

Video by Mike Carroll.

Read more:

EHTHS honors its Class of 2014

EHTHS Top 5 students

EHTHS Class of 2014 Graduate List

Class of 2014 Quick Facts

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