They’ve worked hard, kept their grades up, served the community, lettered in sports, set up scholarships and future careers, and planned to celebrate the end of their K-12 education with common milestones like senior ball and graduation.
And while the 2019 novel coronavirus has tried to derail the class of 2020, students, families and community members remain hopeful.
One rising effort is the new Facebook group “Sequim High School Adopt a Senior 2020,” a virtual gathering that like its national model seeks to support each graduating high school senior in some capacity.
The group had “adopted” more than 50 graduates-to-be by press time, but there are another 150 yet to post on the site by parents/guardians/seniors; Sequim School District officials note that 201 seniors are set to graduate.
Christine Bekkevar, a 2007 SHS graduate, started the online group on April 20, along with Karen Baker and Coleen Tenneson, looking to show support for Sequim 12th graders by sending them letters, cards, snacks, etc.
Bekkevar said she doesn’t know any Sequim High seniors but “thought it was such an amazing thing.”
“If I was a senior, it’d be so special,” she said.
To start, families or seniors themselves can post one or more pictures of the SHS senior with some information, such as interests, future plans, etc. Those starting out put #notadopted atop the post and change it #adopted when people comment or message the parent/guardian/senior.
Bekkevar said it’s encouraged that more than one person adopt each senior.
Without a better phrase to describe it, Payton Sturm, SHS ASB executive president, said it feels “pretty weird” to be home so much with the “Stay Home” order and communicating with classmates and teachers via online meetings.
Like many, she’s missing her friends and the socialization aspect of school, and as Operetta Club president she was excited to help put on “The Addams Family” during the Irrigation Festival.
Sturm, who plans to attend Baylor University, said she first was adopted on the “National Adopt a 2020 Senior Project” by 18 people, which she called “mind-blowing.”
On the local page, she’s been adopted a few times, too.
Family-friend Shenna Younger surprised her by decorating their fence with encouraging chalk art for Payton.
“Oh, it amazes me,” Sturm said. “It is so incredible to see how the community comes together.”
Kylynn Stringer, another Sequim senior and Peninsula College Running Start student, said she was “definitely upset” when she learned of all the cancellations but she’s found some positive aspects from it including a new opportunity in the health field.
She started April 20 at Olympic Medical Center working full time screening employees and patients before they come into the Port Angeles hospital.
While it’s not a typical after school job for many teens, Stringer said she’s been working on her prerequisites to become a pediatric nurse so the position is a natural fit for her.
“I definitely like it,” she said. “I see it as the first step into my career.”
Prior to the pandemic, she used to volunteer at the hospital’s information desk.
If school activities like her favorite, fastpitch, weren’t cancelled, she said she’d be helping Sequim pursue another spot at state.
“We had a really strong team this year, and I really saw us going far in state,” Stringer, a pitcher and first basemen, said.
“Last year, we didn’t make it to the second day of state, but I was feeling a lot better about our chances this year. We had a lot of strong bonding and knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Stringer said she isn’t giving up on playing this summer, though.
“I might be able to play with TNT Fastpitch (team) this summer, so it’s not over yet,” she said.
Like Sturm and many other Sequim 12th graders, they’ve been adopted on the national and local senior pages.
Stringer said she’s been adopted because she was becoming a nurse, and she’s received homemade cookies, cards, gift certificates and more as a way to say “good job in school.”
Many 12th graders say they’re missing out on important events and accomplishments during the COVID-19 closure to end cap their senior years.
Victoria Lelle, a 2020 grad and hopeful veterinarian technician, is missing her final softball season too along with FFA, which she won state for in 2018 for sheep showmanship and all-around showman.
Grace Niemeyer, who plans to become a nurse, got to experience some of her final year on the Sequim Equestrian Team before the season was cancelled. German exchange student Hannah Kokoschka, who lives with Grace, joined the team too, and COVID-19 could have dampened their spirits but they dressed in their prom dresses and made a fancy dinner anyway.
Kara Schoenle, Brookelynn Schoenle’s mom, said she was looking forward to prom and a perfect dress for years but her academia remains a positive as she plans to graduate from Sequim and receive an Associates in Arts degree from Peninsula College, too.
Others wish they took more time to say goodbye in person.
Makenzie Campbell told her mom Sara she didn’t realize that when she walked out to her Jeep on the last day of school (physically), it would be the last time she walked through those halls as a senior.
“She’s sad she didn’t get to say goodbye to teachers that have impacted her life so much,” Sara said of her daughter.
Makenzie, an active FFA member in high school, also shot trap, and lettered her sophomore and junior years but not as a senior due to the virus’ cancellations.
“It is beyond devastating that she wasn’t able to letter her senior year, let alone get her last season,” Sara said.
Erin Dwyer, ASB senior class president and an active in a number of clubs, said the hardest part for her has been the “lack of contact with people” including her teachers in-person.
“It’s been weird not to see them and not be in class and have that structure,” Dwyer said.
She, like many seniors, fund-raised for senior ball throughout high school and now they’re unsure if it’ll happen.
“It’s been really difficult,” Dwyer, a future student at the University of San Diego hoping to become a family attorney, said. “A lot of people were looking forward to this event.”
For her, losing out on small events like the senior class-versus-staff basketball game feels more personal, but Dwyer said she’s hopeful for senior ball and graduation to happen in some capacity and that students leaders are advocating for it.
Some Sequim students, such as Tyler Turner, have found some positive elements to counter the tougher aspects of home studies.
His parents said that for a language arts assignment on a “passion project,” Turner created a rubric for his skills on rope rappelling. He learned the ropes, knots and more before filming the project one afternoon where he explained the equipment and his steps before ascending up a tree.
Family members say Turner graded his rappelling quality as follows: full points for “’I move steadily and don’t fall,” less points for “I look a little worried,” even less points for “I move but I must struggle up the rope,” lower points for “It gets painful to watch,” and the lowest points for “I have to give up.”
“Learning at home has had its ups and downs, but I don’t think Tyler will soon forget this project,” said his parents Chris and Rebecca Turner, and Maris and Rick Larsen.
To adopt one of the 201 Sequim High seniors, search Facebook for ““Sequim High School Adopt a Senior 2020.”
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.