Ulman's after-prom funds praised

March 14, 2010|By John-John Williams IV | Baltimore Sun reporter

Parents, students and staff across the county received an early prom gift last week when Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced a plan to give each of the system's 12 high schools $2,000 to use for after-prom parties.

The $24,000 will come from money seized during drug-related crimes. Each school's "Project Safe and After Prom" will receive the grant money to help defray the costs of facility rental, food, refreshments and entertainment. The announcement was made Wednesday afternoon at Reservoir High School in Fulton.

"This announcement is about prioritizing two of our most fundamental resources:

public safety and education," Ulman said in a prepared statement. "Project Safe and After Prom allows our PTSAs to utilize education and prevention to show today's youth how to have fun and be responsible at the same time by eliminating the dangers of drugs and alcohol."

At Atholton High School, the response was "gratefulness and elation," according to Principal Marci Leonard.

"To provide additional resources to provide a safe environment for the students is greatly appreciated," Leonard said.

"In these tough economic times it means our PTSA will have to work a little less hard fundraising this year," Leonard added.

School-sanctioned after-prom parties have become popular in Howard County and throughout the country. Last year, 64 percent of enrolled juniors and seniors in the county attended these school-sanctioned parties compared with 40 percent in 2005.

At Atholton, more than 500 students attend the prom out of the 700 juniors and seniors enrolled at the school, according to Leonard.

"We have some students who choose not to attend the prom and attend the after- prom party," Leonard explained.

As the popularity of the events have increased, so have the financial demands.

Schools have traditionally held fundraisers throughout the year to help pay for the parties.

The average after-prom party costs between $20,000 and $25,000, according to Lin Guba, committee chair for the PTA Council for Howard County's Project Safe and After Prom.

"Some of our schools really struggle with the fundraising," Guba said.

The price of prom parties has increased by as much as $10,000 from just three years ago.

"Venues are charging more," Guba said. "The economy is hard on everyone." Schools have the parties at a variety of venues. Atholton's party will be at a fitness club; Howard High's will be at a movie theater.

Ulman was approached by a number of parents in the past year asking for financial support from the local government, which led to the idea of using drug forfeiture money, according to Kevin Enright, the Howard County director of the Office of Public Information.

"That is an extremely generous contribution that is going to be greatly appreciated," said school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan. "I know how much time and effort the PTAs put into raising money for the post-prom parties. This is a very positive use for those funds."

The money comes from cash or property confiscated in drug-related crimes. The county has the ability to retain the cash or sell any drug-related items and keep the cash from the sale. That money is deposited into a county's controlled drug asset forfeiture fund.

"These after-prom events are key to keeping our teens safe during the prom season when statistics show traffic deaths among teens are higher than any other time of year," Police Chief William McMahon said in a prepared statement. "This grant will allow us to better protect our kids on a night when we know students are out and may be tempted by the dangers of drugs and alcohol."

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