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Center Hill High School graduating senior Torrean Taylor received items from Martha Robinson as part of the Adopt a 2020 DeSoto County Senior effort, which started with a Facebook group. Individuals, families, businesses, and other groups may “adopt” a high school or college senior and offer gifts and positive notes to celebrate their graduation from school.

At a time when high school and college seniors are supposed to be getting fitted for their caps and gowns and making the other preparations toward celebrating their graduation, the coronavirus pandemic has cruelly taken those memories away from them. 

What many of us fondly recall will not be part of their lasting remembrances with the closing of school and activities in the final weeks of their education toward a high school diploma or college degree.

The memories won’t be the same as most of us savor, but DeSoto County is being enlisted to do something different that’ll still make these weeks memorable. That is being done by simply “adopting” a senior.

Four women are administrators of a Facebook page that gained a substantial amount of traffic the past couple of weeks since the pandemic started and schools were closed for the year.

Called “Adopt a 2020 DeSoto County Senior,” the social media page connects high school and college seniors with those willing to do something special to celebrate their accomplishments.

Robyn Noble Powell, the mother of Horn Lake High School senior D’era Noble, came up with the “Adopt a Senior” page idea after a friend from her hometown of Port Gibson started a similar program and invited Powell to be a part of it.

“I thought this would be something that would be great for DeSoto County,” Powell said. “I saw there had not been a whole lot being done for the seniors in this area.”

The “Adopt a 2020 DeSoto County Senior” page began on April 17 and Powell said it has really taken off.

“We have been managing over 5,000 members and we have adopted over 1,000 seniors and it is still growing,” Powell said. “I’m just overjoyed with everything and how the community has pulled this together.”

Simply put, people request membership to have access to the Facebook page, and once in, they can see pictures and bios of the high school and college graduates who live in DeSoto County. The students can attend any of the eight public high schools, Northpoint Christian School, or any other school, as long as they reside in DeSoto County. The page also accepts those students from the county who were scheduled to graduate from two-or-four-year colleges or universities. DeSoto County residency is the only requirement.

Students are nominated by parents or other family members with information about them posted on the page, Powell said.

“A picture and/or a short bio is posted on the page and the community then agrees to adopt them,” said Powell. “Because we want the love to be spread around, we ask that only one adopter would adopt a senior, but you can adopt as many seniors as you’d like, but just one per senior.”

It’s then up to the adopter to determine how to celebrate the student he or she has adopted.

“The adopter and the student can then exchange information and then agree to a mutual public place to exchange gifts,” Powell explained. “You’re not obligated to buy gifts or anything. Maybe you will just encourage them with words or thoughts that will brighten their day. It’s totally up to the adopter.”

For youngsters who already are dealing with a graduation time unlike anything they could ever imagine, Powell said the campaign is helping to bring them some hope.

“It’s given them something to look forward to,” Powell said. “They’re getting encouragement from people that they may have never interacted with before. Hope is something the kids need right now.”

The others helping Powell administer the Facebook page are Meg Farrell, Kimberly Gaulmon, and Artrelle Hurt.

The page has spawned other ideas, Powell said, such as asking the business community to sponsor a senior field day or a picnic. There has also been another page developed for high school seniors to adopt kindergarteners who were to be “graduating” to first grade in the fall.

People who want to assist and adopt one of the estimated 3,500 seniors in DeSoto County may ask to join the page, and then answer three questions for approval.

Search “Adopt a 2020 DeSoto County Senior” on Facebook for more information.