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Adopt A Senior Program Makes 2021 Special for Graduating Students in a Virtual World

April 13, 2021

We have devoted our most recent posts to how DUSD school communities have worked diligently to enhance the distance learning process through the preservation or alteration of legacy events at their respective sites. With the recent return from spring break, students can see the completion of the 2020-21 academic calendar on the horizon. To compound matters, the need to place health and safety first will deprive graduating seniors of many of the “perks” from their last year in high school. However, as we have witnessed, there is no shortage of steadfast supporters that elect to “think outside of the box” and work to optimize the circumstance – oftentimes with no road map.

A Facebook page was established on January 10, 2021 called “DHS Adopt a 2021 Senior.” The purpose of the group was to uplift and celebrate this year’s seniors and to provide an avenue for virtually anyone to support. The group is not associated with DUSD, so membership remains “private.” That said, no one would be restricted from “adopting” a senior. As a non-competitive activity, the concept was to have families identify their senior as available for adoption and include what their students like relevant to food, games, interests etc. Ultimately, the objective was to create opportunities to gift low cost/no cost items that would resonate with the student. In addition, this FB page also includes the graduating class from Valley High School.

Ms. Diana Hernandez, Adopt a Senior Organizer and Parent of a Senior and Sophomore at Dublin High School. Photo by: Michael Utsumi

Apparently, this adoption concept has gained traction at other high schools throughout the Bay Area. Though they have taken many different forms with various goals, one key item is necessary – a volunteer that will ensure that the venture gets off the ground and ultimately succeeds. She is not a stranger to DUSD community. Diana Hernandez is a mother of two: Samantha is a senior and Vivian is a sophomore at Dublin High School. Ms. Hernandez is also a Parent Representative for the Class of 2023. We recently sat down with Diana in front of the new Science & Engineering Building and discussed the inception and impact of this adoption effort. Please take a moment to walk us through how the outreach occurred between the leadership of graduating classes and explain why you agreed to take on this project that would ultimately benefit the families and students of the DHS Class of 2021. 

Diana Hernandez: “As you know, I am a currently one of the PFSO Parent Representatives for the Class of 2023, and one of the parents (Tricia Bouchard) approached me to ask if there was anything that our Class could do to help make the Senior experience a bit better, since they missed so much due to the Pandemic. I decided to check in with the Senior Parent Representatives for the Class of 2021, who expressed they had considered implementing a Senior-to-Senior Adoption program. I suggested that the Class of 2023 would be interested in helping develop and implement the program to support both DHS and Valley High School; and then offered to take on promoting the program to all other DHS Classes and the Community for an opportunity to come together and show support of the Class of 2021 by “Adopting” a senior.” Please share how you arrived at employing Facebook as the vehicle to promote this ongoing event. And share your perspective on the results that you have experienced, in terms of “adoptions.”

Hernandez: “Since the Adopt a Senior program is not a School sanctioned program, we opted to follow in the footsteps of surrounding local schools that implemented similar programs; and Facebook seemed to be the platform of choice to gain the best momentum. Each DHS Class already has a Facebook Group site, so it seemed the easiest and most efficient way to get the word out. I did not know what to expect when putting the Facebook group together, however the response has been great. To date I believe we have about 30% of the students adopted. The other unanticipated benefit of this group is that there are many small businesses that have stepped up to help make the Adopt a Senior experience event better.  We were able to add a list of these resources to the Adopt a Senior group site as well.” This has been a challenging 13 months for all of the schools and for so many reasons. Given that you have helped to provide a positive ray of hope to the Class of 2021, kindly share some of the feedback that you have received from students/families.

Hernandez: “Yes, very challenging indeed, and it’s more important than ever to focus on the positive during these times.  I have had many parents of the 2021 Seniors and Adopters of Seniors reach out and tell me how happy and excited they are with the program because of the effect it has had on not only the student, but the adults involved as well. I have heard from a couple of students, but for the most part parents will post a picture of the student when they have received something from their Adoptive parent, and I will typically see a lot of smiles in the pictures!

One thing that comes to mind is that I have had feedback that some students do not want to be posted on a public site, so we have created an offline list to track students that want to be adopted or want to be adopted outside of the Facebook group.  We really want to make this a memorable experience for all, and it is great to see some of the special thoughtful items given to students, and it is fun to see the creativity of others.  Everyone provides something special no matter how small or how big, it’s about making special memories.” While we are cautiously optimistic that campus life will “return to normal” in the fall, what is your perspective on potentially adding “Adopt a Senior” to the D.N.A. of our high schools in the future.

Hernandez: “I have had some parents suggest making Adopt a Senior a tradition, and I think it should continue! It may look different next year or in years to follow, however I think the sentiment of having our community supporting our students is worth investing a bit of time and effort into it. I have learned so much about the current Senior students I never would have learned before, and it makes me happy and proud.  The bonus is that I have learned a lot about our community as well, and it’s inspiring.  I look forward to my 2023 student becoming a Senior and possibly participating in a similar program along with her classmates!”

Banner created by DHS Leadership Students to welcome students back to campus for hybrid learning. Photo by: Michael Utsumi Anything else that you would like to add?

Hernandez: “We are nearing the deadline of adding students for “Adoption”, however, as we would like to recognize and celebrate all Senior students, we would welcome any donations to go towards this cause.  In the interim I would encourage Senior parents to post or reach out and we would be happy to help have their student “Adopted”. Also, please “adopt” a 2021 Senior, it’s definitely a fun and rewarding experience!”

So, as we navigate the final seven weeks of this academic calendar, there is a way to positively impact a graduating senior from either Dublin or Valley High School. We would like to acknowledge Diana Hernandez and all her colleagues for creating a platform that would enable a student to be treasured by another. Perhaps another unprecedented experience for the Class of 2021 to remember.

One Comment
  1. Diane Gonzales permalink
    April 21, 2021 12:43 pm

    I am Admin to three Adopt a Graduate groups I started last year.. Not news

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