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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Celebrating the Class of 2020, from Napa, with Love!

By Lisa Adams Walter

Usually, the spring and early summer are filled with graduations and celebrations. Not so this year as the global pandemic, due to COVID-19, has touched nearly every person on the planet. One thing is universal, there is not much that seems “usual” in 2020.

As we all know, across the country, schools were shuttered and students of every level began virtual learning, online at home. Social distance impacted education of course, and then also all of the traditions of being a member of a senior class at every level.

While middle school promotions and eighth grade graduations were impacted, the loss experienced by high school seniors everywhere is unrivaled. Never before have traditional graduations from coast to coast been cancelled or postponed.

Schools have been working to figure out how to best honor their graduating seniors by celebrating students virtually, creating drive-by events to distribute caps and gowns, as well as those hard-earned diplomas.

Beyond the schools themselves, though, a grass-roots community group was born on Facebook called the “Napa Class of 2020 - Adopt a Senior.” Anyone on Facebook can join the group to adopt and celebrate graduating seniors.

Locals Stacy Geary and Stacey Small founded the group, inspired by a similar group based in the Carson City and Virginia City, Nevada region. Small’s sister was part of that group, suggested it to Geary, and together they conceptualized the online community, which has now grown to be a full-on movement.

Parents, guardians or friends can post pictures and information about their graduating high school senior, and put them up for “adoption.” Anyone can adopt a senior, and surprise them with anything ranging from a card or letter, to yard signs and banners, to a flock of flamingos in the yard to favorite things and gifts.

The group remains open, and with more than 1,000 local graduating teens the virtual adopting and celebrations will continue into the summer. I adopted a senior and encourage anyone in our community who can do so, to adopt a senior too!

The description of the group encourages members to shower our Napa seniors with some extra love by adopting a senior or two. The adopters need to let the graduates know that they are being rooted for, especially in this time of cancelled proms and postponed graduations. “Let’s share the love!” the page exclaims.

Colleen Harmon is an adopter who said that she is grateful for the opportunity to help the graduates feel celebrated, even though this isn’t the situation anyone expected. “I think the district is still going to do a drive by, and I’m hoping we’ll find ways the community and their families can still have a modified experience, but knowing this is here for the ones connected is great!”

Another adopter Andrea Risley stated, “I love the idea of bringing joy to others. Especially someone who may be suffering or struggling.”

“Notes, little gifts, favorite snacks, just to let them know they are being thought of, and we want to support them in this small way during this situation. Graduation is still a great milestone for parents, students, teachers. It’s great to be invited to participate!” Harmon added.

Mia Sykes adopted an American Canyon High School student, “Adopt a senior class of 2020 was so wonderful, so much fun!” Sykes went on to say that her student and her parents loved the gifts she delivered, while masked.

A scroll through the Facebook group shows lots of local love. In addition to the posts of students up for adoption, and adopted, there are posts of smiling graduates with their surprises from their adopters. All good stuff!

In addition to co-founding the group, Stacy Geary is also a parent of a local grad, her daughter Haley Geary of Vintage High School. “This group has absolutely amazed me in every single way. When I started the group, I never anticipated it being as successful as it has been. It is bringing the whole community together in an amazing way! Teachers, principals, coaches are being reconnected with their students from the past,” reported Geary.

For a senior, being adopted is very special, yet the adoptions mean a lot to the families of seniors too. Vanessa Barboza, whose daughter Daniela is graduating from Vintage High School said, “For my family this page has made my daughter’s smile come back. Her surprised face is priceless, she didn’t know about this until the gifts came.” Barboza’s daughter felt like she worked hard and was disappointed that she will not be able to walk the stage. Her family has therefore created a small prom at home, a ditch day and senior prank day. “At the end we are going to make a ceremony for her, she deserves it,” Barboza added, “When all of this is over we might be able to take her on a senior trip as we had planned before!”

For Shawna Gardner Montuya, she is grateful for the Adopt a Senior Movement. She explained that her daughter Kat Montuya, an American Canyon High School graduate, recently lost her father, so her senior year alone has been difficult. “I know she is not alone in this, but feeling love from the very people she is missing being around each day, being acknowledged for what she is going through and what she has accomplished makes her feel great and brings so many smiles to her face,” said Montuya, “And it makes me feel amazing too. It is really a gift to see that your child is liked and appreciated amongst her peers and her community.”

“I love this page, it has brought joy and hope to myself and my son, as well for all the community, we all need that,” said Valeria Lopez. Her son Ayden Lopez is graduating from Vintage High School. “I have never been more proud of him, especially during this time. He has fought long and hard and achieved so much over the years with struggles, but came out on top, to make sure he was going to make his dreams come true and mine,” she remarked, explaining that she has been his biggest supporter as a single mother, who could not have down it without the help of her entire family.

Ayden is the first grandson, first great-grandson and first of the next generation of Lopez’s family to graduate from high school. “I have waited for 18 years to watch my son graduate and walk that stage on graduation day. So many mixed emotions going on, but I also work in healthcare and know and understand that our health and the health of others is much more important above all.”