Utah graduates showered with love in special Adopt a Utah Senior projectJun 15, 2020 13h59 ● By Stephanie Yrungaray
By Stephanie Yrungaray | [email protected]
High school seniors across the Salt Lake valley are sharing a common experience they never anticipated…graduation during a pandemic. Although every school district is handling the end of the year differently, there is no doubt that the class of 2020 is not getting the graduation they dreamed of or deserve.
One Utah mom is trying to soften the blow of unmet expectations through a project called Adopt a Utah Senior and teens across the valley and state are being recognized by strangers in a very special way.
Monica Kennedy from Erda, Utah saw what her senior daughter Paige was experiencing and wanted to make a difference for all high school seniors.
“I was really sad for my own senior,” Kennedy said. “I reached out to family and friends for ideas to get some excitement into this season because I can’t make up for the stuff she’s missed out on.”
Modeling a Facebook group after a similar one in Alaska, Kennedy started the Adopt a Utah Senior project which has paired over 2,500 seniors with “adoptive” individuals and families. Parents or legal guardians share pictures and information about their high school graduates, and angel adopters offer to recognize the senior with cards and/or gifts. Once they are paired, the adopter is encouraged to send or deliver something to the grad within two weeks.
Kimmy DelAndrae posted about her daughter Haley who is graduating from Bingham High School. After reading posts from other parents she decided she wanted to adopt another senior.
“I wish I could adopt every one of these kids,” DelAndrae said. “They are missing so much. I want to let them know that one, they are not alone and two, everyone is rooting for them. The whole thing just made my heart so happy.”
Haley helped her mom pick out another senior and together they put together a gift basket for him.
“It was a really fun experience to get one and to give one,” said Haley DelAndrae.
Luke Vickery, a senior at Alta High School, was adopted by Shalysa Meier from West Valley City. Meier also adopted two other seniors.
“Anytime I see a good thing it is a no-brainer to be a part of it,” Meier said. “Not only do I feel it impacted seniors on the receiving end, it brightened my spirits on my end. It gave me something to look forward to and a project I could do to spread kindness beyond my social circle.”
“As seniors, it’s a bummer we don’t get to experience the traditions that most people do,” Vickery said. “Everyone is trying to make a difference and [the Adopt a Senior Project] is a really cool way that people are doing something for our class to brighten our days. It’s really cool.”
Luke’s mom Kourtney, said she can’t believe how generous people have been.
“I love reading the kids’ stories and seeing the things they are involved in,” Kourtney Vickery said. “[The project] is giving people a chance to forget about what’s going on, all of the negative stuff in the world, and focus on other people. It is a bright spot I think.”
Kennedy said she was overwhelmed at how quickly the Facebook group grew. Along with a team of eight other volunteers, she is spending many hours a day trying to make sure each senior is accounted for and matched to an individual or family.
“There is a lot of work involved,” Kennedy said. “We watch for posts that come in, make sure they have correct information including their high school and make sure they are posted by a parent or legal guardian. We tag them so it is easier for people to find who hasn’t been adopted and answer a lot of questions.”
Kennedy said the stories and pictures that come from the adoptions have been heartwarming.
“I love it when they find a common interest,” Kennedy said. “We will get emails with people who want to find someone who plays a certain sport or went to the high school they went to. We have people adopting from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii. It isn’t about getting stuff, it’s about cheering up the class of 2020.”
Just like all good things, Adopt a Utah Senior must end. Kennedy said they will take their last senior on May 23 and allow 24 more hours for adoptions to be finalized. The following week they plan to allow gratitude posts.
Kennedy isn’t worried about any of the graduates not being adopted because of all of the generosity she has seen so far.
“Anytime we’ve gone on and said we need angels to take a referred senior we’ve had so much support,” Kennedy said.
She is sad to see the project come to an end.
“There has been so much love and random kindness,” Kennedy said. “It’s been so awesome to see smiles on these kids’ faces that have had so much taken away.”