Graduating seniors from the class of 2023 were able to attend the annual Falcon Fiesta graduation party free of charge, thanks in part to a grant from the Fountain Hills Community Foundation.

Julie Heaney, now in her fourth year as president of the event, says the tradition of having a after-graduation celebration for FHUSD graduates began 27 years ago. The party includes music, games, karaoke, food, inflatables, and prizes. Additionally, each student receives a gift worth at least $50, such as dorm refrigerators and laptops, to help them be successful on their next life adventure.

“This event is a tradition with Fountain Hills that is so important, and every kid looks forward to it. They all have such great memories of it,” she said. “Teachers who attended FHUSD say it’s their best memory from school.”

Julie said between 75%-80% of the graduating class attends the party each year, which begins at 10:00 p.m. on graduation day and ends at 4:00 a.m. the next morning. Once students check-in to the after party in the high school gymnasium, the doors are locked. Those who leave for any reason are not readmitted.

“We hold to that rule,” she said. “If you leave, you’re done for the night. The only time we open the door is when the ice cream truck comes. The students walk out and get their ice cream and walk right back in.”

The Falcon Fiesta Graduation Celebration Committee is an all-volunteer group of parents and community members committed to providing a supervised, drug and alcohol-free, safe celebration for graduating seniors on the night of graduation. Organizers fundraise for the event year ‘round to cover the costs of putting on the event, which amounts to nearly $18,000 – or $150 per student. Approximately 10-12 volunteers help with setting up the night before and close to 20 adult chaperones during the party. One of the school’s custodians serves as security.

Julie, who was recruited into the position four years ago when her son was in 8th grade, says she is looking for a new generation of parent volunteers to whom she can pass the torch. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering for the 2025 party can call Julie at (480) 296-3249 or email her at julesheaney99@gmail.com.

“There are so many in this community who help,” she said. “Planning this event and keeping the tradition is important for our FHS students. It’s innocent fun with their classmates where they can just have fun and be kids.”