With concerns about COVID-19 dominating daily life, high-school seniors are missing out on many of the trappings of a traditional graduation.
In response, more than 10,000 members of a Facebook group are trying to bring joy to graduating seniors who might have missed out on prom, graduation parties and other mainstays of the final year of high school.
The “Adopt a Volusia County Senior 2020” group was established on April 15 by Port Orange resident Staci Tramont. She hatched the idea after realizing that several of her friends were parents of graduating seniors who were sad about missing out on typical activities.
“I actually have several girlfriends in my inner circle that have nine graduating seniors this year,” she said. “My oldest graduated last year. I couldn't put myself in their shoes and I couldn't imagine missing what we had last year.”
Tramont and others post biographies of graduating seniors to the Facebook group, and others Facebook users volunteer to sponsor the students, by providing not only emotional support, but typically, a useful gift, as well.
She posted some brief biographies of graduating seniors to her personal page at first, but it was clear almost immediately that her idea was catching fire.
“In a few hours, we had 30 bios from different seniors,” she said. “From there, I realized there was a greater need than just my inner circle, and that the sadness was truly there through the entire county.”
By the second day, the group had 1,500 members and had posted 150 seniors’ bios.
“All of them were adopted within 20 minutes, and the trend continues,” she said.
Many of the adoption requests come from parents, but some have also come from other people close to a particular senior, like a teacher, coach, or in one case, a cafeteria worker.
As of May 12, some 1,800 seniors had been adopted.
In some ways, the effort is like a gift registry for graduating seniors.
“Nine out of 10 are sending cards, gift cards, and gifts,” she said. “Those gifts are many of the necessities they'll need in the near future.”
Gifts have ranged from dorm-room essentials to iPads and even money for fees on apartments for college.
Tramont, who works in human resources for a hotel, said she was initially worried about expanding the effort to West Volusia, as her friend circle was concentrated on the east side of Volusia County.
Such worries were unfounded, she quickly found out, and she said that the page is now predominantly filled with graduates from DeLand and Orange City, among other locales.
The group’s members also hosted a car parade for a graduating senior with a terminal illness in DeLand, for which dozens of cars showed up May 14.
DeLand High senior Sarena Champagne has a chromosomal deletion syndrome which has caused her health challenges and developmental delays. Her mom posted in the Facebook group May 5, and within days, its members were organizing the celebration.
“With this — just a simple post on Facebook, and, I mean, it takes my breath away. I can’t even begin to describe all the emotions and feelings for this outpouring of caring and love through the community,” said Jaime Champagne, Sarena’s mom.
As for Sarena herself, she said she was proud of graduating, and that seeing the car parade made her feel happy.
Tramont said she’s gotten nothing but gratitude from the sponsored seniors.
“They are so gracious. They are beside themselves,” she said. “... You can feel how much joy has been brought into their lives just in this time.”
To join the effort, or to submit a bio of a senior, search for the group “Adopt a Volusia County 2020 Senior” on Facebook, or visit www.bit.ly/adoptvcsenior.