By ANDREW GARDA
Montclair High School graduate and former starting quarterback Michael Robinson had spent a lot of the past week at what will become his new stomping grounds — the athletic center at Rutgers University. He’ll be studying and playing football at the state university this fall.
“It’s a lot, it’s hard,” he said. “But I got it.”
Moments later, Robinson would join the rest of the 2021 MHS graduates as they loaded onto buses for Project Graduation the evening of June 24 — after three commencement ceremonies earlier in the day.
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College, jobs and the future may await them, but for one more night at least, they could be kids.
Montclair Project Graduation’s mission is to provide a safe, alcohol- and drug-free celebration for every graduating senior class.
Robinson and his classmates didn’t know where they were headed. As tradition stands, the students don’t know where they’re going until they get there. It’s part of the fun, but also a way to make sure nothing illicit is delivered to the venue. In the past, the grads have gone to all-night bowling alleys, skating rinks and other entertainment centers. Recently, the class of 2020, which saw its celebration canceled due to the pandemic, finally got its night and spent it at MetLife Stadium.
Project Graduation is in its 32nd year. Peter Giuffra remembers the first one.
“The kids were so excited,” he recalled as he watched students gather near the main gym on Midland Avenue. “Just like these kids are.”
Giuffra, a fixture at many Mounties sporting events and a familiar face to many students, wanted to be there to wish the kids well after a long and hard senior year.
“They deserve this, it’s been a long year,” Giuffra said.
For Giuffra, family members, and the volunteers who would travel to the venue to chaperone the kids, watching the happy faces of the graduates was a special moment.
As 7 p.m., approached, students filed onto busses and awaited the escort of police and fire department vehicles that would take them on a “last” tour of the schools they had spent the last 12 years attending.
As they do every year, the busses drove through town to cheering groups of family, friends and other well-wishers, as well as honking cars and waving children.
Then it was off to parts unknown, and one more adventure as Mounties.