High school graduation is the crowning accomplishment in the lives of most teenagers, but it is also an evening with the highest level of alcohol-related accidents and death for high school students.

To discourage drunk driving, a concerned group of parents from Desert Vista High School has been working together since last May to plan a grad night that will draw graduating seniors away from parties with alcohol.

On Wednesday a fundraiser at the local franchise of Panda Express began gathering money for a grad night celebration at F1 Raceway that costs $55,000.

“We know that there are alternative parties for graduating seniors to go to, but we want to be the event that they choose because it’s more fun,” said Sandy Black, president of Desert Vista’s grad night committee.

Aside from go-cart racing at F1 Raceway, students will be able to take part in unlimited arcade games and a casino alley with pit bosses. There will also be a hypnotist, disc jockey and magician. Cost for admission is $100, but all food, games and prizes are included.

“It’s the last night for everyone to be together, and my older brother went and really enjoyed it,” Desert Vista senior Melanie Black said. “I think the turnout will be really good this year.”

After graduation, students will head straight from the ceremony to grad night.

“We bus the students from the high school to F1 Raceway, and then they are locked in a safe environment with no alcohol,” Black said. “We’re planning for 50 percent of the grads to attend, but we want as many kids to come as possible.”

The Grad Night Committee’s next fundraising event, called the Valentine Boutique, will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6.

“We will have about a dozen local vendors with really cool merchandise set up in a house in Ahwatukee Custom Estates,” boutique coordinator Sarah Colone said. “They will be selling high-quality jeans, purses, jewelry and custom swim and resort wear.”

The vendors will pay for a selling space, and then a percentage of their sales will go to Desert Vista’s grad night.

“There will be a $5 admission fee and then shoppers can buy food, drinks and raffle tickets,” Colone said. “There will also be professional models wearing the merchandise while customers roam around the house and grounds.”

For more information about grad night or the Valentine Boutique, visit www.tuhsd.k12.az.us and click on the “Grad Night 2010” link. To make a donation, send an e-mail to dvgradnight@gmail.com.

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