“This is our way of saying job well done. We see you and we’re sorry that you couldn’t celebrate the way that you wanted to.”
– Sheria Walker, Program Administrator
No other graduating class in more than a century has faced the challenges that the Class of 2020 has before them. This year’s graduates have not only lost out on the traditional graduation celebrations, but are entering a changing and uncertain world at a time of great crisis. In recognition of this, a Facebook group was created by Syracuse City School District parent Jessica Rogala designed to connect graduating seniors with people willing to “adopt” them. The initiative gained quite a bit of attention and so far more than 4,000 users have joined. Gifford Program Administrator Sheria Walker proposed that The Gifford Foundation participate by selecting a number of seniors to sponsor as they move on to the next phase of their lives.
Traditionally, the financial assistance offered to graduating seniors is contingent on them going to college. And in those cases, it is often earmarked exclusively for tuition. This initiative offers more flexibility and supports graduates in a broader range of paths. While many of the Adopted Seniors that Gifford selected are going to college, others plan on entering the workforce directly.
Regardless of their fall plans, Gifford’s Adopted Seniors are able to use the funds they have received in whatever way they feel is most helpful. One student who had struggled with reading and writing expressed her wish to purchase a C Pen – a portable device that can read written text to the user, among other functions. Others already have children of their own that need support. Some on their way to college have expenses that are not covered by scholarships or student loans, like travel costs or dorm room supplies.
Speaking to the Adopted Seniors, Walker says: “You guys missed out on your graduation, you missed out on your prom, and you missed out on all the senior activities. We don’t want you to feel like we don’t see what you’re accomplishments have been.”
“I want to be therapist for people who have been sexually abused or faced domestic abuse. I faced abuse when I was younger, and there are a lot of things that I wish people had told me. That’s what inspired me to get into that field.”
High School: East Syracuse Minoa
Fall 2020 Plans: Attend O.C.C. and then continue on to SUNY Oswego
“I’m going to study criminal justice and play basketball [in college]. The grant is going to help me pay for dorm room supplies, books – lots of things.”
High School: Henninger
Fall 2020 Plans: Attend Johnson C. Smith University in N.C.
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