Q&A with GradFest organizer Kimberli Boston-Smith


Riya Chinni

What is GradFest?

“GradFest is a very fun, safe place for the seniors to come back to school to celebrate their graduation and we have close to 90 percent, sometimes more, of the seniors graduate and still want to come all the way back to their school because it’s the last time for them to be together. It’s free for all the seniors, they just have to have their ID and come in and have fun and we work all year long to raise money for the prizes, because you get to win huge door prizes.”

Is GradFest on the same day as graduation?

“Yes, it is. I guess in the past they’ve tried it differently but it wasn’t a good mix and not as many kids came.”

What is GradFest like?

“You can tell the kids (are) having so much fun they’re cracking up; they’re with friends they may never see again, so it’s a very bittersweet time.”

What is the goal of GradFest?

“It’s important to keep kids safe after graduation, and the number one goal is for kids to have some place to go after graduation with their friends and just take a deep breath and know that they don’t have to come back here but they want to.”

What time will GradFest be?

“It will be from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.”

When did Carmel High School begin the tradition of GradFest?

“This year is actually 35 years, and it took me almost four months to find the original people who started this 35 years ago. (The original founder Carol Carlson) finally made it to our meeting last week, but her family and two other families started (GradFest) actually outside of the school because the school at that time wasn’t set up to do something like that so it really started at her house in Carmel for three years, then it was moved (to CHS).”

Are there are new changes this year?

“We try so hard every year to make it better, not so much better in a way of most people would think is better, but we try to eliminate spending money that we don’t need to spend money and mostly spend it on the prizes. We’ve reached out to our wood shop and a couple other places in the school—they have made some of our games. We’ve learned over the years what the kids like, what they don’t like, what has a line and what doesn’t. Every year we try to raise as much money as we can.”

What have you been doing to raise money for GradFest?

“We have spirit wear, and we sell that at the beginning of the year and it is also sold in the bookstore all year long. We sell at athletic events. We have a couple of team members who send out letters for corporate sponsors to send money back in. Also, the Hamilton County Drug and Alcohol Association sends us a $750 check every year, because (GradFest) is the safe place for kids to come. All Things Carmel sells some of our spirit wear, so we get money back from that every month. We’re always trying to think of things. Everybody just chips in and we try anything we think is possible to try and get the money going.”

How do you hope to impact the seniors in their final moments at CHS?

“I think that they can, not so much walk away with a prize, but you can tell they’re having so much fun. It’s their last time together and you can hope that they walk away thinking the same thing. When I stand up on the stage and I look down, it’s hard because I’m older and I know that life gets hard so it might be one of the last times they don’t have any responsibility and they’re there and having fun.”