ISHPEMING - After reaching a milestone like graduating from high school, it might seem like the only way to celebrate is a party.
Thanks to area committees, however, high school graduates have a way to celebrate without the inclusion of drugs or alcohol.
All-night graduation parties for the senior classes of the various area high schools each year, put together by dedicated groups of parents and volunteers who want to make sure their graduates can celebrate with their friends the night of graduation without having to worry about their safety.
Westwood graduates file into the Country Village Conference Center for the start of their all-night graduation party. After signing in, the grads signed up for a variety of door prizes that were given away throughout the night. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Pizza, sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables, cookies — that’s what it takes to fuel an all-night graduation party. Here Westwood High School students fill their plates at the start of the WHS graduation party Thursday. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Here new graduates Kaitlin Aisthorpe, 18, and Ashley Lehman, 17, pose with their 2012 glasses at the start of Thursday’s party. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"These all night graduation events are alcohol-free, drug-free, tobacco-free," said Jenifer Rajala, one of the organizers of the Westwood High School all-night party. "This is an event that offers them an opportunity to celebrate in a drug-free way."
The Westwood graduates held their celebration Thursday night following their commencement ceremony at the Country Village in Ishpeming. Putting the party together is a true community effort, Rajala said, from helping the graduates fundraise for the party to collecting donations of food and door prizes.
"I've been doing this for seven years and I continue to be awed at the generosity of our area residents, regardless of the economic climate," she said. "They really take the welfare of our young people to heart and they are so willing to help us offer this celebration event."
Held at the Country Village conference center and bowling alley, the party kicked off at 10 p.m. Thursday and ran until 6 a.m. Friday and was attended by most of the senior class.
Besides the bowling and pool games offered thanks to the location, the graduates also got to participate in a host of other events, from dancing to a live DJ to singing karaoke to participating in late-night Zumba sessions - a popular group exercise class based on Latin dance moves.
Mid-way through the night-long extravaganza, the graduates were escorted to the nearby Country Village Cinemas for a 2 a.m. showing.
During the night, a host of parent volunteers worked as chaperones who stayed up throughout the night in case of emergency. Each of the graduates attending the party went through a screening process to ensure no substances had been consumed prior to the event or were brought to the party.
Planning for the party began in January, with the seniors helping to fundraise with a bottle drive, bagging groceries, selling gift certificates and approaching local businesses for donations.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.