Safe and Sober Grad Night

Sarah Goody

Unlike past years, this year Grad Night will be hosted at the San Rafael Osher JCC instead of the traditional Mt. Tam Racquet Club. (Image courtesy of Osher JCC)

Redwood traditions are an integral part of school culture, from the Back to School Dance to class skits at the Homecoming rally. One spring tradition that has been carried through the years is Safe and Sober Grad Night. First implemented at Redwood in 1998, Safe and Sober Grad Night is an annual event for seniors to celebrate a pivotal moment in their lives. The night is intended to create a fun atmosphere for graduates without substances. Over the many years, Grad Night has become a beloved event for seniors. After a two year hiatus due to COVID-19, Grad Night is scheduled to be held on June 9 from 8:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

On Grad Night, students will be transported by bus from Redwood to the party, where they will participate in activities put together by a committee of parents and community partners. 

After Grad Night, students traditionally gather for senior sunset the following morning. (Illustration by Katherine Berkowitz)

One of these parents is Mandy Downing, a member of Redwood’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). Downing is co-chairing the event and has spent the past month planning event logistics and organizing activities for the night.

“It is going to be so much fun this year because there are a million things to do. There’s a pool and hot tub, casino games, fortune tellers, raffle prizes, unbelievable food, a chill zone with massages and movies and a huge surprise entertainment at the end of the night,” Downing said.

In prior years, the celebration was held at the Mount Tam Racquet Club; this year, the venue will be the Osher Jewish Community Center (JCC) in San Rafael. Grad Night Committee member and entertainment coordinator Jennifer Reese is excited for the opportunities the larger venue will provide.

“Because of COVID, we’ve decided to revamp the whole event and make it an even more special and wonderful night. … There are just so many different activities at this location that every kind of kid is going to find something fun to do,” Reese said.

Photo 3: Created in 1985 by the California Highway Patrol and established at Redwood in 1998, Safe and Sober Grad Night has long been a cherished Redwood Tradition. (Infographic by Sarah Goody)

Senior and leadership student Sarah Steele plans to attend Grad Night after having heard about the event from past graduates.

“It is a really fun bonding experience with our class — kind of like one final hurrah. I know I’m going to miss everyone when I go off to [college], so I’m really looking forward to spending some time with my class before we all go our separate ways,” Steele said.

While Steele is looking forward to the night, she recognizes that many other seniors may not know about the event. 

“There’s no institutional memory of Grad [Night for current seniors] because the last Grad Night was in 2019 when the [now] seniors were freshmen. So unless you have older siblings, there’s no real memory of Grad Night,” Steele said.

Scan this QR code to find more information and register for Safe and Sober Grad Night.

While Safe and Sober Grad Night is a Redwood tradition, it is also a police initiative. In the years leading up to 1985, California Highway Patrol saw an increase in fatalities on nights of high school graduations. In response, they created Safe and Sober Grad Night to keep intoxicated drivers off the road. High schools across the country have since adopted the tradition, including the schools in our district.

“The PTSA foundation and the people who are putting on [Grad Night] really emphasize the safe and sober [aspect] because they know that graduation night is a really big night for kids to go out and drink,” Steele said.

While Grad Night has a focus on sobriety, Downing reiterates that it is about more than just safety.

“Some of the seniors have known each other since kindergarten; some of [them] just formed [friendships] four years ago. It’s really important to celebrate [their] achievements and [their] accomplishments and [for them to] spend time together one last time in a safe environment,” Downing said.