AMESBURY — For more than 10 years, graduating Amesbury High School students have encountered comedians and hypnotists while partying at carnivals, bowling alleys and even on a boat. The seemingly wild parties come with the important seal of approval from parents and educators who not only endorse them but arrange and chaperone them under the moniker AHS Grad Night.
More than a decade ago, concerned Amesbury High School parents and town officials began AHS Grad Night, following the lead of communities across the country. The after-graduation party, which begins hours after the June 7 graduation, offers seniors the opportunity to enjoy a substance-free surprise night out at some of the most exciting places in the region, accompanied by volunteer parents and other chaperones.
Amesbury police officer Thomas Hanshaw, the department’s crime prevention officer, said since the program began back around 1998, there hasn’t been one alcohol-related death among seniors.
“It certainly keeps them occupied; you hope it keeps people alive,” Hanshaw said.
About 90 percent of seniors have taken part in AHS Grad Night since then, many drawn to the fact they have no idea where they might be going, Hanshaw said.
“They really love the secrecy part of it,” Hanshaw said.
Almost three years ago seniors were bused up to Lake Winnipesaukee and enjoyed a boat cruise on the recently renovated Mount Washington. Afterward, seniors visited Portsmouth, N.H., and spent the rest of the night, plus some of the morning, in the attractive and popular coastal community. Last year, seniors were whisked to the Boston dinner theater venue Medieval Manor followed by dinner at the Bostonville Grill in Peabody.
Another AHS Grad Night is right around the corner and organizers have arranged a series of fundraisers to help pay for the parties. One popular fundraiser, making its return this year, involves raffling off a trip to school in a limousine. Tickets are available at all schools within the district and cost $2 each or three for $5. The lucky winner will be able to invite eight of their friends, along with an adult chaperone, and enjoy a police escort to school. Along the way, the local celebrities will stop by the Morning Buzz Cafe on Friend Street for free doughnuts, muffins and juice.