Grads: $160 and No Phones

Gabi Capestany, Editor in Chief

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According to an anonymous source, OHS seniors are going to a casino. Yet the whopping $160 each student pays for this night is not for gambling, as only fake money is used for this Grad Night venue. And, thanks to searches conducted on attending students, not only will students be kept safe from drugs and alcohol, but they will not be in possession of their cell phones. You read that right: No cell phones.
It’s an awful lot of money for a single night; as Senior Gabi Minter puts it, “The price of Grad Night is equal to paying to play a sport for an entire season, but instead you’re just paying for one night of a Monopoly-money casino.” If OHS students browse the official “Olympia High School Class of 2015 Graduation Party!” website at www.gradnights.org/o/olympia/parents they will find a find a flashy display full of propaganda extolling the mystery activities that will save grads; convincing potential partygoers and parents that shelling out $160 for a single night is a good investment. If about 280 students from the senior class attend Grad Night, that will result in a total of $44,800 accumulated. Senior Megan Spataro adds, “I’m not looking forward to paying.”
But through the high prices, many seniors will still pay for this single night of celebration. This writer would be lying if she said that she wasn’t considering it herself, however Grad Night’s website has some statements that seniors have not been aware of until now. A button placed on the left-hand side of the site asks, “Planning an alternate party? Click here!” which takes you to a page with a bold titled question, “Are you considering hosting an alternate party with alcohol?” –As if there are only two options for after graduation: Either you attend Grad Night, or you have an “alcohol party” and die.
The site’s creators supported these deathly assertions by posting 15 news stories containing tragic graduation nights where students were killed by drunk drivers, injured, arrested, and even one story where a student was apparently thrown into her own bonfire. Certainly, over the decades and millions of graduations, one can gleen such horrors. Yet, the site insinuates any student who doesn’t attend Grad Night is doomed to one of these fates. Regardless, you could find bad things happening to participants of ANY annual event: Sports, driving cars, even deathly horrors that happen to a few students that go to college.
Price and scare tactics aside, the students’ harshest criticism is reserved for the rules for the night as listed on Grad Night’s website.  Listed under the “Party info” tab in a section dedicated to “Party rules,” students find info on searches that will be conducted and a prohibition on cell phones for the trip. With these, Grad Night seems  to some like a strange babysitting gig rather than a party for 18-year-old adults; kind of contradictory considering it’s the night of graduation, the milestone where high school kids enter the “real world.”

“Seniors will be searched before boarding bus at the beginning of the night”
The initial reaction to this is a feeling of intimidation, rather than fun. Yet, Grad Night organizers of past years have also conducted such searches due to concerns with alcohol and drugs. Still, as Senior Jonathan Marzella says, the feeling of distrust is unsettling: “Are there going to be TSA agents there? I think that’s kind of dumb and it seems like they don’t trust us.”
Though searching students and their belongings seems draconian, all students interviewed acknowledged the obvious fact that some certainly plan to celebrate with illegal substances. One anonymous senior says, “I could do Molly, and I’m 99% sure I’ll keep up appearances by popping an Adderall.” Another student also shared their similar plans to use illegal substances.  Since Grad Night organizers must account for these druggies by searching everyone and instituting strict or strange rules, this organized “celebration” feels to some like a hassle.
But this is the big question: how many students are ready to go to the big, final party of their high school lives WITH NO CELL PHONE?
“No alcohol, drugs, tobacco, weapons, or cell phones are permitted. Because everything is provided, we discourage bringing bags, purses, or personal items. However, we do encourage them to bring warm clothing (e.g. coat/sweatshirt)”
Again, the no rule is something to be expected from any school-connected event, but the “no cell phones” rule makes no sense to students that for years have been snapping pics, texting, posting on Facebook and Snapchat. And, communicating with parents after the party could be problematic. Spataro states, “I can understand the no alcohol rule, but we should be allowed to take pictures on our phones so we can remember the night.” Senior Allison Bond agrees, stating, “I understand everything except for the phones. If I am spending money on our last night together, I want to take pictures with my phone…”
Part of a common high school student’s “FOMO” (fear of missing out) is looking through all of the Instagram and Facebook pictures of everyone having fun at a party while you’re not there.  Apparently this won’t be an issue with Grad Night. For some reason, Grad Night is turning out to be all very private, with ongoing events of the night to be kept secret since  no cell phone will blast out pics of the ongoing party.  To our generation, that’s just weird, and for some students this could be a deal-breaker.

“Seniors must be picked up by someone in the morning—they may not drive themselves home.”
Grad Night was created because parents do not want kids celebrating with a night of drinking and drunk driving. Understandable. However, the fact that students are not able to drive themselves home in the morning seems absurd– as thanks to the pre-boarding search– students would not have had a chance to drink. Marzella reacts, “What the […]?!” Spataro simply asks, “Why? We’re all 18, we’re adults now; you should be able to drive yourself home.” Last year, the senior class needed to be picked up at 4:00 AM, and this year the website says we will be home at 6:00 AM. Since it is a Saturday, parents will have to pick of their 18-year-olds, who would otherwise be perfectly capable of driving if it were not for this Grad Night rule. Frustrated, Bond says, “I don’t know why they would have this rule, I can drive myself home. I am sure my parents won’t want to wake up  6 AM when I live 30 seconds away from the school.”
In short, students critical of this can’t-miss, “safe” event feel  that seniors are paying $160 each to be babysat in an all-night fake-casino environment. Marzella says, “It doesn’t seem very fun [as the rules make it] seem kind of dumb.”
Chances are, most seniors will choose to endure the rules and make the most of the night, as even this critical writer is giving it some thought since it is indeed the seniors’ last night. Marzella sums it up well: “The only reason why I think I should go is because it’s our last night together as a class.”

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