by Nicole Eisenberg & Hailey Nettler
As June comes to a close, seniors will say their final goodbyes to the WHS community. Graduation night marks the end of the seniors’ high school careers, so the Optimist Club rewards them with an all-night celebration. On June 24, the 27th annual Project Graduation BASH will be held at the Ricochet Health and Racquet Club in South Plainfield.
Despite its name and reputation, BASH is more than just a party. Its purpose is to create a safe, fun and substance-free event that the senior class can attend after graduation.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study in 2012, 1 in 3 teens under age 21 who died in alcohol-related accidents died during prom and graduation season. Students are provided bus transportation to and from BASH, which runs from 10:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. “I really like [the timing] because for most people, including myself, my parents would not let me stay out that late if it were any other night,” said senior Chrissie Sloan.
But with these activities comes a cost. The Optimist Club supports BASH every year by fundraising and preparing for the event. They ask for a suggested payment of $75 or more per student who attends BASH. Optimist Club Chairperson Ms. Darielle Walsh said, “Over the years, student enrollment and event expenses have increased and we rely on contributions to help with the cost of the event…. Less than two-thirds of the 450-plus families with students attending BASH will contribute to the event.”
Optimist Club members and their spouses chaperone the event, along with some WHS alumni, ensuring the parents’ happiness with the safe night. However, as a result of the club’s fundraising and donations, the parents are not the only happy ones. The graduates are treated to food, sports, music, massages, a Rock’n’ Joe station and more. Alumna Rachel Fan ‘14 said, “I made a lot of great memories [at BASH] with my friends and with some people I wasn’t necessarily close with during high school.”
On the contrary, alum Nick Mennona ‘14 said: “The [club] was a little too compact, and I feel that more activities...could have been brought in for the students.”
One thing that sets BASH apart from other parties is its ability to host the entire class at once. Said Sloan: “It gives us a chance to have a nice night full of fun activities outside of Westfield surrounded by everyone we spent that last four years with.”
In a time when teen drinking is so common, how does an event as wholesome as BASH remain so attractive? For many, it seems to come down to quality time with classmates. “I remember when it was first initiated back in the ‘90s,” said Athletic Director and parent Ms. Sandra Mamary. “It was always cool to go because it was the last hurrah with your class… and that does trump any party.”