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FARMINGTON —Volunteers are scrambling to catch up on months of work after a group of parents abandoned their positions as co-chairs for Kirtland Central High School's Project Graduation event a month ago.

Event co-chair Paula Thompson said she doesn't know who was previously in charge, but she said that they left the event with only $500 raised by mid-April.

"They dropped the ball and put us in this difficult situation," she said. "Whoever had it before me waited until the last minute to say they were too busy to do it."

Paula Thompson said her daughter, senior Hanalysa Thompson, told her that the 2013 graduating class might not have a Project Graduation event. Project Graduation provides an alcohol- and drug-free party for graduating students the evening after the commencement ceremony. After a call to the school and a meeting, Paula Thompson volunteered to help organize this year's event.

"We're frantically trying to pull something together for that night," she said. "We are just crossing our fingers and praying we can do something nice for the kids."

With the commencement ceremony on May 22, Paula Thompson is working with her fellow co-chairs to ensure graduating seniors have a safe environment to celebrate their graduation.

She was co-chair of last year's Project Graduation when her daughter, Mariesa Thompson, graduated. Mariesa Thompson has been helping her mother by distributing flyers to businesses in Farmington and Kirtland seeking donations to help stage the event.

So far, the committee has raised about $4,000, with help from nonprofits and the Central Consolidated School District.

Local businesses have volunteered to supply food for the event on short notice.

The amount raised last year was $11,000, a figure that this year's volunteers are desperately trying to reach.
Volunteers Colette Merrill and Margo Doolin register students for Kirtland Central High School’s Project Graduation on Wednesday, May 15, 2013,
Volunteers Colette Merrill and Margo Doolin register students for Kirtland Central High School's Project Graduation on Wednesday, May 15, 2013, outside the school office. (Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times)

The committee has had only time to stage one fundraiser, a "treat" sale at Kirtland Elementary School, where Paula Thompson is a third-grade teacher.

Paula Thompson said she was upset only 19 students had signed up to attend the Project Graduation as of Monday, but, by Wednesday, the committee had signed up 90 students.

Another issue for organizers to overcome is a lack of planned activities. At past events, inflatables like obstacle courses and climbing walls were activities students could take part in.

Paula Thompson said inflatables need to be reserved weeks in advance. And with the Piedra Vista High School in Farmington hosting their graduation the same night, she is struggling to find activities.

Co-chair Colette Merrill has been working to encourage registration for Project Graduation by operating a table outside the school office, trying to sign up students.

"I think we're going to pull this thing off, and we'll be okay," Merrill said. "Of course, it would be a lot better to be a little more organized and started under better conditions. It's not going to the ultimate, but we'll have a fun evening for those kids."

Joshua Kellogg can be reached at; 505-564-4627. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.