Community Members Celebrate WHS Seniors Through Adoption

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Alex Sheedy

Student receives gifts from their adoptive parent.

Danielle Dentremont, Online Managing Editor

With Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement on April 21 that all Massachusetts schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year, seniors relinquished their final high school memories. Prom, graduation and a final game on Turco Field are all momentous occasions that encapsulate senior year. Unfortunately, the class of 2020 must seek nontraditional ways to celebrate their time at WHS. Hundreds of Walpole community members have channeled both generosity and creativity through the figurative adoption of seniors via Facebook.

“There is a Facebook group dedicated to the WHS senior class of 2020 in which parents post about their seniors in the hopes of adoption,” senior Grace Buckley said. “A community member selects or adopts a member of the senior class to give thoughtful gifts to, in order to commemorate their graduation.”

Senior Alex Sheedy spearheaded this project after scrolling through Facebook one night and coming across a comment about garnering support for seniors. Such support has been found in the Facebook group that Sheedy organized, which gained 800 members in a period of only three days. With the help of Sheedy’s mother, Courtney Nottebart and Rita Nelson, Sheedy has been spreading the word in an endeavor to involve as many seniors as possible. The adoptive “parent” of the senior is responsible for orchestrating small surprises—in the form of cards, words of encouragement and gifts—for the senior. 

“I feel adoption will make a difference in brightening students’ senior year,” Sheedy said. “The students, including myself, did not really have much hope as to what was coming for us next. We were all so excited for senior week, prom and especially graduation. We lost it all, and I wanted to change that as much as I could with the virus impacting pretty much everything.”

The process of adoption consists of, first, a student’s parents joining the Facebook group, second, a parent posting photos of their senior in order to put him or her up for adoption and, lastly, a community member, family member or friend adopting the student. Despite the need for social distancing, it is remarkable how the Walpole community has united to ensure that there is a sense of togetherness for seniors during this unprecedented time. 

“There is so much unconditional love and support from the members of the community. It’s overwhelming, but in a good way,” Sheedy said. “Seeing the videos of the students opening their gifts and being so surprised and supported by someone they might not even know is so heartwarming in a time of such sadness. I’ll definitely remember this forever and have a story to tell.”

In lieu of graduation and prom, senior adoption fosters a sense of excitement during quarantine. In theory, the adoptive parent is supposed to remain a secret and small gifts from this person are supposed to appear in a senior’s mailbox. Amidst such a bleak and uncertain time, it is reassuring to seniors that they have a supportive community behind them. 

“It has been difficult to see certain milestones like graduation, an event we have been working towards our entire high school experience, canceled. I think hearing about these adoptions reminds seniors they are still being celebrated for their accomplishment in finishing high school,” Buckley said. “Although we may not have the proper send-off we wanted, it is nice to see the community making the effort to recognize us.”