CCHS seniors, volunteers wrap gifts for Project Graduation

By BRITTANY FHOLER
Cove Leader-Press

Seniors from Copperas Cove High School wrapped Christmas gifts at Walmart this past weekend, and will be back again Thursday through Sunday, to raise funds for Project Graduation. 
The students and adult volunteers will be wrapping Christmas gifts for tips in front of the Copperas Cove Walmart from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 20, Friday, December 21, and Sunday, December 23; from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 22; and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, December 24. 
This year, the drug-free, alcohol-free, safe environment event will be held after the CCHS Commencement Ceremony on May 25 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at North Pointe Park, located on North F.M. 116. 
Charles and Dorothy Lyons, who had taken over Project Graduation in early 2017 and organized the Project Graduation 2018, stepped back and handed the reins of Project Graduation 2019 over to Brent Sanders, who is the President of the planning committee. 
Sanders is also the lead pastor at North Pointe Church, who run North Pointe Park. 
Sanders and his wife, Jenni, supervised and helped wrap presents while the seniors passed out fliers or wrapped gifts themselves. 
Their own children aren’t graduating yet but they have a niece who is a senior this year and a nephew who is a sophomore, Sanders said. 
The point of Project Graduation is to provide a free safe, drug-free and alcohol-free environment in the form of a lock-in on the night of graduation to keep the teenagers safe “so they have the rest of their lives still to live, instead of making a poor choice or an accident or something happening,” Sanders said. 
The event will include games of kickball, volleyball, basketball and dodgeball outside while karaoke, movies and gaming systems such as XBOX and PS4 will be found inside, as well as food available all night long.
The event will also include a Painting With a Twist session for the graduates to paint something to remember the night by. 
There will also be prizes passed out throughout the night, to include T.V.s, laptops, tablets, cash and more. Each graduate attending the event will also get a free t-shirt. 
“However much we got, we’re putting it right back into those guys,” Sanders said. 
The Lyons donated all the wrapping paper for this year’s gift-wrapping fundraiser, leaving only the purchase of tape and scissors to the committee. 
Kiara Spicer, 17, said that more seniors were participating this year but that the group needs more parent volunteers.  
Spicer was familiar with Project Graduation through her two older siblings who have already graduated, and has gone to meetings this year. 
“I think it’s a really good idea because it’s kind of like the school and our parents giving back to us,” Spicer said. “It’s kind of like saying ‘Thank you for all the work that you’ve done and the hard work that you’ve done to graduate’, and it’s kind of like them giving back, and I really think it’s a good idea to help kids start their life.”
On Saturday, the seniors passed out fliers inside Walmart to shoppers, specifically targeting those buying toys, while outside, Sanders offered to wrap presents to anyone passing by their table. 
Spicer said that she was excited and ready to graduate and was looking forward to Project Graduation. 
“If a lot of people don’t come, it’ll be okay because it means more gifts for me,” Spicer joked. 
Sanders shared that the goal this year is to also set it up behind the scenes for next year’s parents to step in and volunteer and make the task less intimidating. 
Sanders said that he previously wasn’t aware that Project Graduation was strictly volunteer based and thought the high school planned the event. He soon found out that the school is not involved or responsible for putting the event on. 
Sanders said that the next fundraising opportunities will include Spirit Nights at local restaurants such as Raising Cane’s and Chick-fil-A, where a percentage of purchases is donated to Project Graduation but did not have any dates yet. 
After Christmas, Project Graduation also plans to send out letters to solicit sponsorship from local businesses, Sanders said. 
Volunteers will also be needed for the night of Project Graduation for supervision and to help set up the event. 
For people interested in helping or learning more about Project Graduation, email Sanders at Brent@npcove.com

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