Project Graduation transforms to a drive-thru event

Jim Boyers, right, gives Apple iWatches to Roberta Steele to be given away as prizes tonight during Marion County’s annual Project Graduation.

FAIRMONT — Betty and Adrianne Boyers were integral parts to Marion County’s annual Project Graduation event.

They both passed away in 2016 from cancer, but Jim Boyers, Betty’s husband and Adrianne’s dad, is continuing their involvement in the event celebrating the county’s graduating students, by offering scholarships and prizes to the teens who attend.

“My wife was so instrumental in not only teaching, but also in Project Graduation,” said Boyers, who is also chair of the board of First Exchange Bank. “She devoted a lot of time and energy and talent to Project Graduation.”

On Wednesday, Boyers donated three Apple iWatches to Project Graduation, to be awarded to a student at each of the three county high schools. Roberta Steele, coordinator of Project Graduation, said this year’s event will be mainly about the prize giveaway, to allow guests to follow necessary safety guidelines for COVID-19.

“It’s a parking lot prize giveaway,” Steele said. “We wanted to go ahead and award the kids because they have been through so much already.”

The event takes place at 6:30 p.m. tonight in the parking lot of East Marion Park. While the event has been staged at the Armory for the past few years, Steele had to push back the date and move it to East Marion Park because of the coronavirus pandemic. The original plan was to have a pool party also changed, but Steele said she is still expecting to see a good crowd turnout.

“There’s about 78 kids that have already registered, and I’m adding all the old ones who already preregistered for the Armory,” Steele said. “We’re doing it the day before they graduate because we don’t want to lose the kids. Once these kids graduate, they start their own lives.”

Steele has been involved in Project Graduation for decades since it began in Marion County. She said Betty and Adrianne’s work with the program has been integral to its success in the years they were involved.

“They were activities directors, so they set up all the games and made sure we had adequate volunteers,” Steele said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Steele thanked Boyers for continuing the legacy of his family members, because she believes it was what the two would have wanted for Project Graduation.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet thing, but she would want this,” Steele said. “She would want those kids to be able to continue their education, so that’s why they do the $500 scholarship and the really nice grand prize.”

Email Eddie Trizzino at and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.

News Reporter

Eddie Trizzino has been a reporter with the Times West Virginian since August of 2017, covering the entertainment, business and health beats. He spends most of his time listening to records, going to the movies and strolling through the town.

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