By John Grossi
Why is it that one of the most amazing and memorable traditions at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach is largely shrouded in secrecy and historically only attended by less than 1/2 of the graduating class?
That’s a question this year’s Grad Nite Committee is trying to make go away.
Those who have attended Grad Nite at Wilson High School in the past, have experienced a once-in-a-lifetime high school send off like no other. Different from other schools who celebrate graduation then bid farewell to each other, or invite their graduating seniors to a theme park like Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm that night on a group rate, Wilson has always had a tradition that is unique, fun, and hosted right on school grounds.
For roughly three weeks before graduation night, a tireless group of parent volunteers transform the school gym and quad into an extraordinary event space with areas for music, dancing, casino games, palm reading, food and drink, a nap room, outdoor recreation, and more! All leading up to a grand show with a professional hypnotist at the end of the night that drops the jaws of the graduates by transforming their peers into hilarious characters before their eyes.
Out of many great school events, Grad Nite perhaps tops it all, due in large part to the massive volunteer work force behind it, and the massive budget for the event. Plus, given that it’s an overnight party, students don’t leave early like many other events. Instead, they stay through the night, enjoying one last humongous party at the school they attended for four years, with all their classmates. The seniors may not fully realize it, but it’s the last time most will see each other, outside their very core closest friends.
Yet, this event billed as “the last night with all your classmates” isn’t usually attended by anywhere near the entire senior class. Due in large part to the cost (the massive budget makes the event cool but costly at $120 per student) and also just the fact that that part of the charm of the event is it’s secretive build-up and hush hush form of hype.
But this year, some of COVID’S unfortunate results have given the Grad Nite Committee an opportunity to change their event’s course for one that’s more inclusive and accessible to all graduating seniors. Due in part to the cancellation of last year’s and this year’s prom and last year’s graduation and Grad Nite, the committee has enough funds to put on this Grad Nite 2021 for as little as $10 a person.
Given this huge head start, and also a 1 time gift from the school district, they are now fundraising toward the goal of making sure this is not just a one-time price drop.
“This is a game-changer!” says committee treasurer and future co-chair Amy Hollister.
“We’re wanting to coin the term the “Bruin Way”. This is what we should be doing- inclusivity for every student- free events replacing fee events wherever possible! This gift was given to us, now let’s pay it forward forever!”
They recently dropped flyers to a few select neighborhoods around the school urging donations to help start a fund for the longevity of this event. The realistic goal is not to erase the cost of the event completely but to make the cost low enough to where it serves more as an accountability head count on who will show up.
Wilson, like most Long Beach High Schools, services an expansive area of Long Beach’s population and draws students from vastly diverse economic backgrounds. During an expensive “senior season” including expenses like prom, yearbook, graduation, and more, Grad Nite often takes less of a priority. Even though it is the one event exclusively designed for all the kids to hang out with each other one last time until many go separate ways.
“If we’re excluding people who don’t feel comfortable asking their parents $120 for a ticket when it could go to rent or food, it doesn’t seem like the senior class send-off it’s supposed to be,” says Hollister.
The committee is asking former students, parents, and neighbors to help make the last night of high school a free night of fun for Wilson students of all backgrounds. Anyone willing to donate can click the link listed below where a tax-deductible donation can be made to help cover the ongoing cost of Grad Nite as well as other expenses for seniors.
The next few years of Grad Nite will look a little different from years past as the focus will shift toward safe, outdoor fun. But the heart of the event will still be there. One last night, with all your friends, classmates, and peers focused on fun.
Attendees can look forward to an awesome DJ as well as caricatures, balloon artists, stilt walkers, food, drink, games, and an evening shrouded in Hollywood quality lights and decorations. All for just $10!
This may have been a less than desirable school year for Seniors, but one thing is for sure. They will never forget Grad Nite. And this year, the committee can say more than ever, it is truly being put on for the entire Senior class!
Go to Donation Link Here: