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High school graduation is a rite of passage and time for celebration. But unless you’re willing to witness a real life scene from 16 Candles, Weird Science or even worse, Project X, you’d do best hosting a project graduation party. Nowadays, schools across the country participate in some type of chaperoned, drug- and alcohol-free event, which typically on throughout the night.

The scope of these events varies, depending on the school’s budget allocation and cost-per-ticket. But that doesn’t mean party planners need to skimp on the frills. The pleasure seekers at SmartAsset have compiled some ideas to help you load up on the fun on a budget.

There are several highly affordable settings to have your project graduation

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  1. School Facility: Point blank, your school facility can fulfill a number of the necessary requisites. It has an auditorium, schoolyard, gymnasium and numerous classrooms. Participants can easily be sectioned off into groups, where they can be supervised in closed quarters.
  2. City Parks: For a reasonable fee, a city park can be rented for the duration of the night. Since the time for project graduation parties is off-hour, a park is highly accessible for private functions. One thing to beware of is the requirement for permits — such as for vending and sound — which can quickly rack up additional fees.
  3. Community Centers: These facilities provide a slew of amenities at your disposal, making for a project graduation that fulfills needs across-the-board. Community Centers are highly affordable; some are free to rent. Don’t forget to consider a YMCA, YWCA or JCC, which are each viable options.

Some alternative, which may be more expensive, include campgrounds, college campuses, and fully equipped entertainment centers, e.g. bowling alleys, amusement parks and movie theaters.

What’s on the menu?

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Since this is an all-night affair, its important to make sure that one large meal is provided. Numerous snacks, and copious amounts of nonalcoholic beverages and bottled water, should also be on-hand. While potato chips and popcorn are easy choices, it is wise to also include healthy options. This can include fresh fruits, and vegetable and dip platters. For dinner, pizza is highly recommended since it can be highly reasonably inexpensive. It is a good idea to ask your local pizzeria for a deep discount, since the order will be high volume and for a school function. Another cheap option is to utilize hoagies or make-your-own buffet stations. If you will be hosting a breakfast, include milk, juice and a pancake breakfast.

Now for the fun part, the activities

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1. Have a DJ-fueled dance party

With today’s sounds comprising of high-octane beats, catchy riffs and fat grooves, a dance party featuring your favorite local DJ is a must. He or she will keep the people moving while providing a memorable soundtrack. A DJ can be had for several hundred bucks and usually can bring their own equipment, including loudspeakers. Just make sure the DJ has a wide range of hits — new and old — to keep the happy graduates smiling.

2. Let them have karaoke to channel their inner Michael Jackson or Carrie Underwood

There’s something about karaoke that builds camaraderie amongst folks, young and old alike. Whether it’s recounting your favorite tune or humiliating yourself amongst friends, this affordable activity — which can cost as little as $100 — has plenty of appeal. Moreover, the fun lasts as long as your music library is extensive. For an added touch, make audiovisual recordings of each karaoke session and sell them as novelty memorabilia from the event.

 

3. Contests, contests, contests

One way to bring a lot of people together is to give them contests with lots of prizes. Everybody loves to win, so consider drawings and competitions, which can be administered easily. All you need is a dedicated jury, some raffle tickets and prizes. To obtain awards on the cheap, consider soliciting local businesses who are interested in contributing to a benevolent, safe cause such as project graduation. Other inexpensive, yet valued prizes include school supplies for students’ first semester in college including school bags, padlocks and folders.

4. Make sure to expend some energy through physical activity

Part of selling the project graduation experience to a bunch of sober kids is the idea that you’re helping them to attain a natural high. It’s important to integrate some kind of exercise and physical activity early because that will help them to release endorphins. This is where the gymnasium and outdoors can come into play. Try wall climbing, Frisbee, relay races, laser tag, dance-offs and competitive sports. By the end of the long night, they will be exhausted, even cathartic.

Party favors commemorate the night

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Favors are relegated as junk at the end of most events, but they can be valid keepsakes to memorialize the night. Here are a few affordable options.

T-shirt printing: Bulk printing of t-shirts with the school logo or slogan from the project graduation party can be had for cheap. If you do an extensive search, you can find companies that will print for one dollar per piece with the right quantity.

  1. Sunglasses can also be purchased in bulk and printed with your school’s likeness and will be useful for the summer ahead.
  2. Flash drives are also a safe bet. They are practical, can be purchased in bulk, and can even be personalized with images and music related to the event.
  3. Goodie bags with school supplies can be made, which will not break the bank. For instance, you can include a pen, notepads, Post-its and a Sharpie.

Some final fundraising ideas

  1. While this may not be the best option for all project graduations, it may be wise to enroll your committee as a 501(c)(3). This way, you can make the event and all of its expenses tax deductible.
  2. You can also entice businesses to donate their products and services to your 501(c)(3), in exchange for an in-kind donation letter. This letter can be used as a tax deduction.
  3. Visit your local Chamber of Commerce to request that businesses direct donations to your cause.
  4. Contact local restaurant and fast food chains and convince them to donate food and beverages.

Photo Credit: Sugar Activism, Photos by Priya, Frank Munari, hoàng khai nhan

Dennis Sebayan Dennis Sebayan is a freelance writer and business analyst. His expertise is in home buying, credit cards and retirement. He lives in Brooklyn. Dennis has a degree in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
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