Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, high school seniors have lost their senior banquet, end of the year award ceremonies, proms, graduations, and, of course, the beloved signing of the yearbooks. Treasured moments that many look back upon with proud nostalgia are replaced with feelings of isolation and time lost. Adults will return to work and get new jobs but no amount of wishing can turn back the clocks of time.
To support seniors at East Hampton High School, the community has come together to show solidarity with an adoption program. Amanda Jones discovered an Adopt A Senior program happening at her niece’s high school in Pennsylvania and was inspired to coordinate one right here on the East End. As her own son, Micah, is a senior at East Hampton High School, Jones understands the pain many of the students face.
“He had so much taken away, things which help them define the end of their 13-year journey,” Jones said.
Her job as a musician essentially came to a halt when the crisis began, leaving her with a lot of time to start a local Adopt A Senior program. She began it all with a Facebook group, Adopt A Bonac Senior Student, which has over 400 members. Understanding that not all parents have Facebook accounts, she additionally created a sign-up sheet. Soon, with the help of Tonya Gregg, class advisor at East Hampton High School, who put adopters in contact with the respective seniors’ parents, all 237 students from the school’s graduating class were adopted.
Once adopters signed up they chose students, some of which they knew and others strangers, and, through correspondence, learned about their hobbies, career goals, and favorite classes. Mirna Tubatan, a teacher at John Marshall Elementary School, adopted three seniors — all of whom were students of her own in second grade. Robin Keslonsky Jahoda, 11th grade English and Journalism teacher at EHHS, adopted five students. “This was especially important and meaningful to me and for my students. Some know it’s me and some don’t, but they are all filled with joy about this, and that’s just what they need,” said Jahoda.
“I’m happy to see how much they have grown and proud of how far they have come,” Tubatan said of her former students. “These are great kids from great families. I was glad that I was able to celebrate their achievement by adopting them.”
The adoption process includes gifting each senior with a gift from the heart. “A well written card, flowers from their garden — those are amazing gifts and make someone feel so loved. We live in a digital age, so for these students to get some tangible reminder of the community’s support is more important than the amount of money spent,” Jones said, who adopted two students of her own. “For one of my students, a lovely young woman, I am including a recipe book (because she told me she loves to bake) and I’m going to include some of my favorite recipes in there for her.”
It’s not about the quantity but rather the quality of the sentiment. Becky Guidi, a special education teacher at the EHHS helping Jones with the initiative, said, “As an educator and a parent, I realize how much these kids are missing out on. Socially and academically, kids get so much out of these years in school, especially high school,” Guidi said. “I love that we can show them some love and encouragement, and let them know that the whole community is proud of them.” She’s shopped for small gifts with her seven-year old daughter, who enjoys being part of the process. The parent of three sees her own children adjusting to life outside of school doors. Guidi adopted two seniors.
Drop-off sites for gifts include individual houses or public spaces.