While graduation is usually seen as a symbol of transitioning into adulthood, a longtime community event allows high school graduates to be kids again—if only for one more night.

Ardmore Project Graduation, entering its 19th year in operation, serves as an opportunity for the graduates of Ardmore High School to go from walking across the stage into walking into a night of entertainment.

“It is an all night party,” Barbara Dunn, Ardmore Project Graduation organizer, said. “It gives them a fun place to go and be with all their friends.”

The lock-in style celebration is a gathering for the graduates to celebrate their accomplishment in a controlled, safe environment. Dunn said the lock-in was first put in place to provide a safe place for graduates to go following graduation. While some graduates go with their family or go elsewhere following graduation, some students want to spend time with their friends before transitioning into the next phase of their lives.

Dunn said Ardmore Project Graduation provides the perfect outlet for that.

“It’s a safe place to be,” Dunn said. “Parents like to know their child is somewhere safe.

“It’s an opportunity to build memories together.”

No party is complete without entertainment and Ardmore Project Graduation is no exception. The night begins at 11 p.m. and the doors of the Colvert Ministry Center are locked until 5 a.m., when the celebration comes to an end. The evening is complete with a hypnotist, a variety of games, rooms filled with activities, a photo booth and prizes.

“I see them having a good time with their friends,” Dunn said of the evening. “It’s fun to watch them just enjoy themselves.”

Dunn said in years past she has seen students interact and come together at the event that hadn’t had the chance to “hang out” for years. In Ardmore City Schools, students begin at Will Rogers Elementary and then potentially go to three different elementary schools. All of those students are then funneled together again in middle school and high school. Dunn said many of the students may have been close earlier in their lives and different paths led to them being around each other less and less. Project Graduation, she said, brings them all together to be kids again.

“It brings them all together,” she said. “There’s so may different ways to get involved at Ardmore High School and this shows the diversity.

“It’s a unique kind of experience for them.”

Dunn said the event is community supported and parents love the concept of having a safe place for their children to be following graduation. The project is conducted by roughly 14-20 parents, who will accompany the students at the lock-in and make the long push to 5 a.m. with them on a night of celebration.

Dunn said anyone interested in donating to the cause or seeking more information can contact her at (580) 226-1818 or contact Vicki Peters at Ardmore High School.