With school districts across the state finishing the school year remotely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many Greater Houston-area community members have gone digital to ensure that seniors of the graduating class of 2020 are celebrated for their accomplishments.
Klein ISD community member Reyna Ramirez said she created the Klein Oak Adopt a Senior Class of 2020 Facebook group as a way to honor graduating seniors, such as her two sons. While an in-person graduation ceremony for the district is set for Aug. 1, Ramirez said she and her family were nonetheless disappointed with the school year's unprecedented ending and set out to find another way to celebrate her seniors.
“That's when I was more into looking for ways to make [my son] feel like, 'You did it; you accomplished something huge. You have done all of this work, and it's not going to be unrecognized,’” Ramirez said. “That's pretty much why I created the page, and we've had a pretty good response from the community.”
Ramirez said family members of graduating seniors or seniors themselves can create a post in the Facebook group that includes an image of the senior, additional interests and any other information. Group members, who are vetted prior to joining, can then reply to the post to "adopt" the student and compile a gift basket to be delivered to the student.
Since creating the page in mid-April, the Facebook group now has more than 500 members.
Among those is Klein Oak High School teacher Allanda Nichols, who said she originally joined the group for her son Christopher Jones II, a Klein Oak High School graduating senior. Nichols said she decided to "adopt" other seniors after seeing her son’s reaction to receiving the gifts.
“I actually adopted three [Klein Oak High School seniors],” Nichols said. “I really like to see that genuine smile.”
While Jones said he has mixed feelings about ending the school year remotely, being "adopted" through the Facebook group helped him feel more connected to the local community.
"When my mom first mentioned it, I was a little confused about what she meant; she just told me, 'Do you want to get adopted?'" Jones said. "I wasn't really sure what she [meant] but she showed me the Facebook page, and ... how all the local seniors are receiving gifts from communities. It was really nice to see that interaction between all the members of the community."
According to Jones, family members of his football teammate gifted Jones fruit, sweet treats and other items after being connected through the Facebook page.
"When I saw the gift, it was very heartwarming," Jones said. "I saw how much effort and time that went into it. It was very nice to know that I was supported for my senior year and rewarded for all my accomplishments."
Nichols said she has since celebrated two of her former students and another senior she has never met, by treating them with some of their favorite snacks, activities and dorm room supplies. For her first senior, Klein Oak High School senior Kendall Kent, Nichols said her reaction was priceless.
“When I brought it to her, she was shocked because her mom hadn't told her what it was for," Nichols said. "She gave the same smile my son gave–that genuine, 'Oh my goodness, this is for me?'”
Nichols said she plans on adopting at least one more senior in the near future.
“Especially right now, we're two days away from when they would have had graduation, so I can only imagine the emotions, the highs and lows that these kids are going to feel when that day actually hits," Nichols said. "So if I can brighten it, I will.”
Spring ISD math coach Danielle Pinter created the Adopt a senior 2020 - Spring & The Woodlands Area Facebook group to celebrate seniors in her area. Even though Pinter moved into the area just a little over a year ago, she said she has been able to connect with many community members through the page, which now has more than 5,000 members.
“It's been a hard time for these seniors, but it's been fun seeing the joy on their faces when they get these gifts,” Pinter said. “Lots of times, it's from complete strangers. ... A total stranger is going out of their way to make these kids' days.”
Other Facebook groups, such as Texas Adopt A Class of 2020 Senior Katy, Cypress, Klein, Spring, HISD, also serve seniors in the Greater Houston area.