La Jolla High combines spirit and fund-raising in Blast Off

La Jolla High School’s annual Blast Off, the first fund-raiser of the season, will be more spirited than ever this year.

The back-to-school event for the whole family will be held Friday, Sept. 15, and is altogether different this time around.

“This is a new event, totally,” said Barbara Ouellette, volunteer event co-chair along with Gabrielle Goodman and Jamie Zebrowski. “For the first time, we’re having a spirit night competition between freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior classes.”

Formerly a Saturday barbecue event, Blast Off’s spirited Friday Night party kicks off the football season welcoming students back to campus. Boll Weevil will provide deluxe hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings, and Baskin Robbins will offer ice cream. The student snack shack will be open by the time junior varsity kicks off at 4:30 p.m. and will continue to serve game-day treats. The Vikings varsity squad takes on University City at 7 p.m.

What will make the festivity extra-special in 2006 is its emphasis on promoting school pride. During the school’s first annual spirit competition at halftime of the varsity game, students dressed in their class colors will fill the stands competing to prove which grade level possesses the most Viking spirit.

Principal Dana Shelburne will present the spirit award to the winning class. Local shops and restaurants have joined the celebration by donating gift certificates or merchandise to be won by participating students.

Freshmen will wear white, sophomores will gear up in gray, juniors will show up in red, and seniors will shine in black. Students must enter the stadium dressed in their class colors or Viking garb to receive a ticket to the drawing.

Blast Off is one of La Jolla Parent-Teacher Association’s largest annual high school fund-raisers. This year’s event is also special in that it celebrates the 85th year of the high school’s founding.

Although La Jolla PTA is not entirely a fund-raising entity, it is an active and successful group which exists to raise funds. La Jolla High Parent-Teacher Association, governed by a 12-member executive board, had 1,028 members last year, according to its current president, Bee Mittermiller.

Mittermiller said the PTA also depends on donations to support its numerous programs. She said the group is always striving to outdo itself.

“It seems every year we add another program,” she said. “We have a lot of creative, highly educated, motivated and talented parents whose kids go to the school. We have a lot of things going on year-round.”

The Parent-Teacher Association also runs the high school’s registration process, which occurs the week preceding the beginning of the school year. Other activities performed by the group include the publishing of a family directory and seven newsletters throughout the year. The group also hosts senior grad night and after-prom parties.

They also sponsor campus visits by a police dog that smells illegal substances.

La Jolla Parent-Teacher Association also runs a mini-grant program doling out donations given to the organization in the form of grants to teachers in the maximum amount of $350 per request.

“Teachers fill out a form and ask for money to pay for things not supplied by the school,” said Mittermiller. “The budget is constantly being cut for teachers.”

Ouellette said La Jolla High PTA hopes to raise $4,000 from the Blast Off event.

Mittermiller said it’s gratifying to see so many people continually supporting La Jolla High School.

“Every year, we try to get more members,” she said. “Last year was a really great year for membership.”

La Jolla High School has an enrollment of 1,690 students in a grades 9-12 comprehensive public high school. It is part of the San Diego Unified School District.

More than 90 percent of the high school’s graduates continue their education at universities and colleges, with a significant number attending Ivy League, out-of-state and University of California institutions. About one-third of the school’s students come from communities outside La Jolla.