With Iowa’s K-through-12 public schools sealed off through the end of the school year by the pandemic, an effort is gaining momentum to show support for graduating seniors through social media.

Sarah Olthoff of Webster City helped organize a Facebook page called “Hamilton County Adopt A Senior,” and many other communities are launching similar pages. Olthoff says, “Families, parents and friends of grads post pictures and a brief description about their grad, why they’re proud, some of their accomplishments, just a little about them so we can all get to know them, and maybe their future plans.”

Iowans can show their recognition for the students by requesting to become a part of the private online community. “The rest of us join in by joining the group and seeing these grads and choosing to ‘adopt’ one by sending a card, doing something that you know would recognize them and know that they’re celebrated,” Olthoff says, “despite the fact that we aren’t able to come together like we traditionally do with commencements and the normal types of receptions.”

Olthoff hopes people will use these groups as a way to inspire each other with their creative ideas for honoring these soon-to-be high school grads. “If you know of something already being done to celebrate, share it on that group page,” Olthoff says. “If there’s some campaign out there or something people are promoting to do, maybe that’s something you can do for a senior that you adopt. It’s just a way of coming together during this really unusual, different time and making a difference for these kids.”

Olthoff says there’s a positive response to the project in Hamilton County and she hopes communities across Iowa can create their own ways to recognize the young grads.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)