Grad Bash Returns: Palmetto’s Class of 2022 Takes on Universal Studios

Bella Martin, Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, Apr. 1, Miami Palmetto Senior High’s Class of 2022 embarked on their traditional senior class trip to Universal Studios. Grad Bash, organized by Universal Studios, is a celebration for high school seniors across the country. Students are given the opportunity to participate in a one-night trip with private access to both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first Grad Bash trip Palmetto students have taken since 2019. With the re-introduction of Grad Bash into the senior class’s activities, Palmetto’s Activities Director Elizabeth Valero organized the trip for months leading up to the event.

Tickets went on sale for $177 at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 15 on OSP, an online student payment server. Seniors rushed to purchase the limited quantity of Grad Bash tickets, causing the website to crash for several minutes. Initially, only 200 tickets were available for sale and due to high demand sold out in under two hours. 

“It was pretty difficult to get a ticket because there were so many issues with OSP and not enough tickets for everyone that wanted to go, but luckily I managed to purchase a ticket when they first went on sale,” Palmetto senior Grace Weinbach said. 

Soon after tickets sold out, the Activities Department posted a waitlist on the Palmetto website ( for seniors who could not get a Grad Bash ticket but wanted one. Students on the waitlist were not guaranteed a ticket, but as tickets became available, spots on the waitlist opened up. 

“The process of buying a Grad Bash ticket was honestly very stressful. The tickets went on sale at midnight and it was a race to get them. The website wasn’t fit to have that many people on at one time so it ended up crashing for almost an hour. After refreshing my page almost 15 times, I saw that there were no more tickets left,” Palmetto senior Katherine Cruz-Alvarez said. “The waitlist opened a couple of days later and was a Google form that we had to fill out. When more tickets became available, they took whoever was the fastest to fill out the form and let them buy a ticket. I knew I was off of the waitlist when one of Valero’s aides made a group chat of me and other numbers and told us to go to Valero’s room as soon as possible because we were the ones at the top of the waitlist.”  

Prior to the trip, seniors were instructed to watch a video on Grad Bash rules and regulations, which included information about belongings, dress code, schedules, transportation, rest stops and more. 

On the day of Grad Bash, seniors were required to arrive at school at 7:20 a.m. and attend their first block for attendance. All seniors took first lunch, and then had to check into their buses before entering the gym. To ensure that check-in went smoothly, Valero assigned two student chaperones to each of the five buses. These student chaperones included Catherine Bales, Isabella Martin, Danny Sevilla, Stephanie Viamonte, Julia Strasius, Daniela Hernandez, Camila Gamboa, Sebastian Muñoz, Alexa Flores and Gabriella Martinez. 

These chaperones were tasked with checking student IDs, checking students onto their buses prior to leaving the school, at the Fort Drum rest stop and when leaving Universal. Chaperones were also required to read the rules and regulations aloud to students and meet with teacher chaperones prior to leaving the school. 

“As a student chaperone, we had the responsibility of taking the stress off the actual adult chaperones on our bus. I enjoyed it especially because of who I was paired with. We worked well together and made sure nothing went wrong. The only exhausting part was counting heads over and over again at two in the morning, making sure nobody was left behind [at Universal],” Bales said. 

Once all seniors were checked into their buses, administrators and teachers began checking bags. As stated in the Grad Bash rules and regulations video, students were instructed not to bring any food or open water bottles. For safety reasons, students were also required to let Valero or another administrator know if they needed any medications on the trip.

Around 2 p.m., seniors eagerly made their way to Universal. To pass time on the bus ride, some seniors played music, some played games, some watched movies and some took naps. 

“On the bus ride to Grad Bash I passed the time by listening to music, watching Netflix on my phone and talking with my friends. My favorite part of the bus ride — other than the reclining seats — was planning which rides and simulations we would ride while at the park,” Palmetto senior Daniel Solomon said. 

After a quick 30-minute rest stop at Fort Drum, seniors continued on their way to Grad Bash. Palmetto’s Class of 2022 arrived at Universal Studios around 7:00 p.m. and were greeted by DJs and entertainment at the entrance to the park. With access to both Universal parks, many groups split up. Some made their way to Islands of Adventure while others went to Universal Studios Florida. 

“We went to Universal first because right when we got off the bus, Rip Ride RockIt was right in front of our eyes. How could we deny such an exciting ride at first sight?” Palmetto senior Nate Chehab said. 

At Islands of Adventure, seniors could pick from a multitude of attractions including the popular Incredible Hulk Coaster, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and the two newest attractions at Islands: the Velocicoaster in Jurassic World and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure in the Hogsmeade section of Harry Potter World. 

“My favorite ride in Islands of Adventure was either Velocicoaster or the new Hagrid ride because I have never been on either before and although their lines were long, the rides made up for it. They were both extremely fast and pretty long for rollercoasters,” Palmetto senior Brooke Young said. 

Many other seniors, including Cruz-Alvarez, echoed this sentiment. 

“My favorite ride at Universal was the Velocicoaster in Islands of Adventure,” Cruz-Alvarez said. “This ride is relatively new and I had only been on it once before Grad Bash. Even though the line was really long, it helped build up the anticipation and was eventually worth it. In my opinion it’s the most thrilling rollercoaster at the park.”

The Velocicoaster is a launched, 70 mile per hour rollercoaster at River Adventure in Jurassic Park. The premise is that velociraptors Delta, Echo, Blue and Charlie have escaped their enclosures. The ride features two top-speed launches: one from zero to 40 miles per hour and one from 40 to 70 miles per hour. The ride also includes top-speed loops, turns, drops and thrills. 

When it came to fan-favorite rides, other seniors preferred Hagrid’s Motorbike. 

“My favorite ride was definitely Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure because of the thrilling speed. Not only was the ride fast, but it also went backwards at a point and the floor dropped. It was by far my favorite ride,” Chehab said. 

Hagrid’s ride takes riders on a journey through the Forbidden Forest, seeing magical creatures from the Harry Potter series such as Fluffy the Three-Headed Dog, Cornish Pixies, Devil’s Snare, a Centaur and a Blast-Ended Skrewt. The ride reaches a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour and features countless turns, drops and even a backwards launch. 

At Universal Studios Florida, seniors were provided even more opportunities to enjoy exciting attractions such as Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt, the Escape from Gringotts in the Diagon Alley section of Harry Potter World and the Simpsons Ride in Simpson World. 

“I rode [Rip Ride RockIt] because that’s what my friends suggested to go on. They knew more about the rides than I did. I really did enjoy it because I did not know what to expect from it, so there were a lot of surprises in regards to the loops and drops. Overall, I do think it was one of my favorite rides because it was really fun, and I enjoyed the music aspect,” Palmetto senior Lauren Robbins said. 

Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt is a rollercoaster that features music, LED lighting and  photos and videos captured from cameras on the passenger seats. The ride features a vertical lift and drop along with loops, turns and launches. The most unique feature of the ride is that it allows riders to select a song to listen to while on the rollercoaster. The chosen song begins to play as the train rolls up the vertical lift. Riders have the ability to choose from a menu of songs from a variety of genres; there is even a secret menu that only expert theme park-goers know about. Some songs on Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt include “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band and “Glamorous” by Fergie. 

“One of my favorite rides was Rip Ride RockIt because of the steep drops and how fast it is. I chose ‘Kickstart My Heart’ by Motley Crue because I like the fast pace of the song and the band,” Palmetto senior Aiden Kong said. 

With various schools attending Grad Bash, lines for some rides at the parks exceeded two hours. However, students found innovative and fun ways to pass the time, including making TikToks, playing Heads Up and singing songs with the crowd in line. 

Seniors were not the only ones to enjoy their time at Grad Bash. Chaperones were also given wrist bands to join the FastPass and single-rider lines on all of the attractions at the park.

“For me, Grad Bash was a lot of fun. Because of Mrs. Valero’s great work organizing the trip and Mrs. Dwyer’s coordinating everything at the park, and the student chaperones doing such a great job checking kids on the buses, I was allowed to run around the park and just have a good time. I almost didn’t even feel like a chaperone,” Palmetto AP Macroeconomics teacher and Grad Bash chaperone Joel Soldinger said. “[My favorite part about Grad Bash] had to be the rides without the wait. After I hit all the rides, and one of them twice, I found a DJ and hung out there for a long time, listening to music and watching it turn from nothing into a dance party.”

For those seniors that do not enjoy rollercoasters or rides, performances by DJs were offered all over the park. There were also countless places to grab a bite to eat or indulge in sweets, such as Butterbeer in Harry Potter World or a giant Simpsons donut in Simpsons Land. 

After spending hours at the park, the gates to leave Universal Studios opened at 2 a.m.. Many seniors, exhausted after running around the parks and riding rollercoasters and simulators, used the hours-long bus ride home to sleep. 

“When I got on the bus, everyone immediately fell asleep since we had all been awake for so long and had been doing so much all night,” Weinbach said. 

After an over three-hour bus ride home and over seven hours at the parks, seniors and chaperones returned to Palmetto around 6:45 a.m.  

Looking back on their experiences at GradBash, Palmetto seniors remember it as a rite-of-passage and night to remember. With Homecoming, Powderpuff, Senior Picnic and Grad Bash done, seniors can continue to look forward to Prom on Apr. 30 before Graduation Day arrives on June 3.