Schoolies’ arrival a rite of passage
JESSEE Young, Kyra Hadley and Emma Telford grew up together.
They went to kindergarten, Prep and junior school together and this week the three Whitsunday teenagers finished high school together.
Describing themselves as excited about the future yet sad to farewell the past, they and many of their Proserpine State High School cohort are now looking forward to a rite of passage at Schoolies celebrations in Airlie Beach.
“It’s our last chance to spend time with each other before we head off into the world,” school leaver Alison Dench explained.
“And it’s about making final memories in the town you grew up in,” 18-year-old graduate Kumya Gabey said.
With the laptops put away and study finally finished, the next week is all about celebrating the end of an era – safely in the care of an army of volunteers.
Schoolies Airlie Beach coordinator Nicole Graham said parents could rest easy knowing she was doing everything possible to ensure a safe environment for the youngsters.
“We’ve got the Red Frogs on board,” she said.
“We have a lot of community members that support schoolies and come down and volunteer year after year to ensure the kids’ safety.
“And we’ve also got the chillout zone if the kids have had enough and they need to sit down.
“That’s got free drinks and free food.”
James Heitman is just one of the many local teens who are grateful to this team of vo- lunteers for making it possible to celebrate Schoolies in Airlie Beach.
“And you’ve got your parents nearby if you need help,” he said.
For James’ nervous dad, Justin Heitman, the next week will doubtless be an emotional time.
“But I’m rapt that my son and his friends are staying local,” Mr Heitman said.
“As parents, it’s nice to know we can be here to support them if they need us, although I’m really impressed with how Schoolies is run and by all the volunteers.”
Schoolies officially starts on Saturday, with Whitsunday Police confirming there will be a heavy police presence throughout the week.
Police will be targeting underage drinking and asking young people to look out for their mates.
Ms Graham reinforced this message of responsibility.
“You have the choice to just enjoy yourself and not get waylaid by what other people do,” she said.
“Take advantage of all the free activities and all the great discounted tours on offer.
“Enjoy your time at Schoolies and enjoy the region as well, because we’re lucky we’ve got so many options and activities.
“You want to come out of Schoolies saying it was a great time.”
With everything from dance parties to tie-dyeing and the bucking bull to obstacle courses, Airlie Beach schoolies surely won’t be short on things to do.
Ms Graham said local residents and regular visitors had nothing to fear from the coming influx of schoolies.
“We keep everything within Schoolies Central,” she said.
“We do close off the entire car park, which may inconvenience some people, but that’s one of our strategies to keep all the young people in one area so they’re not out on the streets.”
Half the Airlie Creek car park at the lagoon will be closed today, before closing completely from Friday until Thursday, December 3. All activities in Airlie Beach are drug- and alcohol-free.
JUBILANT: Candee Rackham, James Heitman, Alison Dench, Kumya Gabey, Emma Telford, Jessee Young and Kyra Hadley are looking forward to Schoolies. Photo: Sharon Smallwood
FREEDOM: Former Proserpine State High School students Mohanad Abd El-baky, Alex Moore, Tim Macdonald and Holly Coyte, with (centre) teacher Raylene Rasmussen, celebrate the end of exams for Year 12.