It’s that time of year when students don caps and gowns to celebrate their academic achievements and wrap up their high school or college careers.

Ahwatukee Foothills high schools are graduating 1,347 students this month who are ready to move onto the next chapter of their lives.

For many students, that means the next step in their education. According to the schools, 97 percent of Desert Vista students, 90 percent of Mountain Pointe students and 95 percent of Horizon Honors High School graduates are off to a university, community college or vocational school. Ahwatukee Foothills students also earned $33.7 million in scholarships among them.

After students walk on graduation night, most will be ready to party the night away. About half of each graduating class is already signed up for grad night celebrations, which will be at FI Race Factory for Desert Vista and Gameworks at Arizona Mills for Mountain Pointe.

Grad nights are usually organized by parent groups to give seniors safe places to celebrate.

“We want to be able to provide something that is unique. It’s the last time potentially to get all the students together,” said Sandy Black, parent of a Desert Vista senior and president of the school’s grad night group. “As parents, we want our kids to be in an alcohol- and drug-free environment.”

Parents also want to make sure their kids are safe on the roads, which is one reason all graduates must take a bus to the celebrations. The co-chairs of Mountain Pointe’s grad night, Denise Konieczny and Sarah Devine-Avery, both had students graduate in 2007 and remember too well a student’s death in a car accident after prom that year.

“We just know that graduation night and prom night are some of the more dangerous nights to be driving around and partying in their senior years,” Konieczny said. “It’s a very personal thing that we want to keep our kids safe.”

Students from both schools will be treated to games, dancing, prize drawings, hypnotist shows and more as they spend one last night as high school seniors.

Students can sign up for the grad night celebrations up until the time the last bus leaves the parking lot. The cost is $100 for the Desert Vista celebration and $55 for Mountain Pointe’s grad night.

And about 130 students from Mountain Pointe will continue their celebration with a Disneyland trip this weekend. Students and chaperones will head up on Thursday and come back Friday.

“It was a student desire to have a senior trip,” Black said. “Some of (the parents), especially the Arizona natives, remember doing that when they were in high school.” 

Desert Vista’s graduation starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 27, at the school, 16440 S 32nd St. For information on Desert Vista’s Grad Night, contact Sandy Black at sablack@cox.net.

Mountain Pointe’s graduation starts at 7 p.m. May 27 at the school, 4201 E. Knox Road. For information on Mountain Pointe’s Grad Night, visit www.site.mpgradnight.com.

Horizon Honors High School’s graduation starts at 6 p.m. June 1 at Bethany Community Church, 6240 S. Price Road, Tempe.

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