EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — New grads and their guests had the chance to head back to Egg Harbor Township High School together one last time Thursday night for Project Graduation before they take that giant step forward to their lives beyond high school.

For the hundreds of kids that made Project Graduation a part of their graduation night, it was a huge party with music, food, games, karaoke and loads of fun. For Scott Mahrer who heads the Project Graduation steering committee, it is an event.

Mahrer said when he and his wife were returning home from the very first Project Graduation 25 years ago, they both agreed this was something that could really be something positive for the EHTHS students. “Both of us agreed, we never wanted to hear about one of our local kids being injured or killed in an accident just a few hours after graduating from high school,” said the organizer.

“Other people who had begun Project Graduation in other school districts told us we would be lucky to get 50 percent of the students that first year and we had 70 percent. Our kids want to be here, and this year roughly 85 percent of the 540 graduating seniors will be back at the high school tonight,” Mahrer said.

As a surprise at Thursday’s big event, Mahrer’s wife ordered a giant cake to celebrate 25 years of Project Graduation. As she picked up the cake, the baker walked out and said to her that he had graduated in 2013 and he knows that Project Graduation saved a lot of kids' lives that year and every year by giving them a safe place to go and celebrate after their graduation.

Mahrer said the National Transportation Safety Board said in 1998 that Project Graduation and other similar events were a positive tool in preventing teen deaths from drinking and driving.

“We just want to keep our kids safe and let them have a great evening,” said Mahrer. “We all feel like we are helping keep our kids safe and that is the bottom line.”

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