By MARINA WATERS
The high school students posted to the Washington County/Johnson City adopt-a-senior class of 2020 Facebook group likely have family and friends celebrating their unusual senior year in light of the recent health crisis. But this year, community members are also jumping in on celebrating those achievements by “adopting” them and showering them with love and encouragement.
The Facebook page offers a space where the community can choose a student who is posted to the page and the send the high school senior a gift to celebrate his or her graduation, which has been effected by the COVID-19 virus.
“(Graduating high school) is a huge passage. Everyone graduates kindergarten, fifth grade, eighth grade, but this is the last sense of your childhood,” Kathryn Carver, the creator of the Facebook group, told the Herald & Tribune. “After this they’re adults. I just think it’s really important to have that encouragement and that ‘we’re so proud of you’ type of thing. It lets them know someone is still rooting for them whether it’s through a card or a gift or something.”
The idea is for parents, guardians or family friends to post their high school graduate for others to “adopt.” From there, members of the page can comment, saying they’d like to send the student something, and the student goes from “available” to “adopted” on the page.
Carver later considered that some kids might not have an advocate to post on their behalf. That’s when she started the secret senior project, which keeps the students anonymous, while a team of “ninja gifters” band together to get the student something according to their interests.
“They don’t have somebody saying, ‘Hey, adopt my senior,’” Carver said. “It doesn’t have to be a sad situation. Maybe they don’t have facebook or maybe they’re being raised by someone else who is not in the position to put them on there. It could be anything. If someone knows a young adult like that, they’ll message me their name. I keep their name private and then there are people who have volunteered to get them a basket.”
After a student has been adopted, some sort of gift is brought or sent to the graduate. Many people send gift cards and items that can be used if the graduate plans to head off to college.
Though Carver suggests people send whatever is in their heart, she has also suggested people consider supporting local businesses that could be struggling due to the health crisis.
“These kids have taken a hit on a special time, but also our community has taken a hit,” Carver said. “I try to say if you know a local business that is still operating and is doing curbside service or something, buy from them. Boost them up too. We just try to kind of keep the circle going.”
Graduates have received a plethora of gifts, many of which have been posted in photos along with smiling graduates quarantining with their new goodies. But what has impressed Carver the most has been the camaraderie between these students and community members, most of which didn’t have a prior relationship to their adopted graduate.
“I have seen the community really come together,” she said. “People are posting not only where to get gifts, but what companies are doing yard signs you can pick up for your senior. I saw someone say, “I want to get a yard sign for this kid’ and it’s not even their kid. I just think it’s really super sweet and above and beyond.”
For Carver, the Facebook group has also proven that community and being a good neighbor is not completely lost in today’s world. And that’s been a gift for more than just a graduating senior across town.
“Even in today’s time, you can still rely on somebody. There’s still integrity out there. There’s still honesty out there,” Carver said. “If you look back on generations, and I know when I was a kid, you could go out and do things and everybody was real friendly. That’s the whole reason I love living in Tennessee. You can still drive down the road and people wave at each other. It’s like everyone has remembered we’re all in this together. It’s best to just boost everybody up the best way you can.”
For more information go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/530570207845144/.