The destroyed vehicle in which Juneau-Douglas High School graduate Taylor White died in June 2009 is on display in front of the school as a reminder to current students of the perils of drinking and driving. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The destroyed vehicle in which Juneau-Douglas High School graduate Taylor White died in June 2009 is on display in front of the school as a reminder to current students of the perils of drinking and driving. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Grad party promotes safety on graduation weekend

Two local high schoolers will wake up Monday morning not only as graduates, but also $2,017 richer.

The annual Safe Grad event, which provides a graduation celebration free of drugs, alcohol and tobacco on graduation night, always gives out a grand cash prize at the end of the night. This year, it’s giving out two of them at the very end of the night, encouraging graduates to stay for the full time.

The event, which runs from 10 p.m.-2:17 a.m. from Sunday night to Monday morning, takes place at Centennial Hall and has games, prizes and more for graduates from local high schools and home-schooling programs.

The event is nearly 30 years into its existence, but local organizations are still donating money fervently. Nancy Courtney, a parent volunteer in charge of public relations for the event, said more than $40,000 has come in for the event in donations.

“It’s amazing,” Courtney said. “These people are giving year after year.”

Close to 400 seniors will be graduating from the three high schools and four home-schooling programs, Courtney said. All of them are welcome, and can bring one guest between the ages of 16 and 20. Graduates enter the event for free, while guests pay $10. Usually about 500 people attend, between graduates and guests, Courtney said.

The festivities begin at 10 p.m. Sunday, following Juneau-Douglas High School’s graduation (the latest one, which begins at 7 p.m.). People are allowed to enter until 11 p.m., and if guests leave early, they aren’t eligible for the grand prizes. All graduates will receive a small gift and a coupon for a free Bullwinkle’s pizza.

“I think it’s just a great community event to bring the high school students together,” Courtney said, “and have them come out and see each other and maybe get to know new people.”

While the night serves as a social event and an enjoyable way to cap off the school year, the main reason for the event’s conception in 1989 was for safety reasons. Alaskans for Drug-Free Youth put it together that year to ensure that high school seniors were all in an environment that was free of alcohol and drugs.

It’s been eight years since the drunk-driving crash that claimed the life of Taylor White just days after his Juneau-Douglas High School graduation in 2009, but that memory is still fresh in the minds of many. White, who was a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver, serves as an example of the dangers of drinking and driving. A sculpture modeled after the car in the crash has stood in front of the local high schools in the past month, a physical reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving.

In 2014, 17 percent of drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 who were killed in car crashes had a BAC (blood-alcohol content) of 0.08 percent or higher, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In a national CDC survey in 2015, 20 percent of teens said that they had ridden in the past month with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.

Those who put on and support the Safe Grad event hope it can deter graduates from being in those kinds of positions. It isn’t limited to just parents of graduates, as volunteers from around the community often join in and help put on the event. Volunteers are still needed for this year’s event, Courtney said, mostly in helping to set up and tear down after it’s done.

“They don’t necessarily have to have high school students involved,” Courtney said of the volunteers. “If they just want to help in this great community event, we welcome all volunteers.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com or 523-2271.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Nov. 27

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Nov. 26

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Sugar Bear Alaskan Treasures, seen here, was one of many artist vendors featured at the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Indigenous Artists & Vendors Holiday Market from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday through Sunday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Indigenous Holiday Market features local artists

Market’s first return since 2018.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Nov. 24

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A member of the Juneau Gun Club helps participants with shooting clay targets, one of many events featured at the club’s annual Thanksgiving turkey shoot. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Ready, aim, gobble: Juneau Gun Club hosts annual Turkey Shoot

No turkeys were harmed in the making of this article.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Wednesday, Nov. 23

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A cellphone screen displays spam text messages. During busy shopping season, scammers pretending to be other people, businesses or agencies frequently attempt to gain personal information via “spoofed” text messages, emails or phone calls. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
‘Criminals do not take the holidays off’

FBI shares tips to avoid being scammed during busy shopping season.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Nov. 19

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Nov. 22

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read