Covid-19 robbed the Class of 2020 of the once-in-a-lifetime experience of walking on stage to the cheers of their family, friends and classmates as they pick up their high school diploma.
Fortunately, the seniors in Gilroy will have something else to remember the end of the era.
Gilroy resident Teresa Camarillo formed the Facebook group “Adopt a High School Senior in Gilroy 2020” as a way to encourage members of the community to send gifts to graduating seniors in the city.
After forming the group toward the end of April, “within 15 minutes it just blew up,” she said.
As of June 1, the group has nearly 1,900 members, and about 370 seniors have been the recipient of the community’s generosity.
“The community support has been amazing,” Camarillo said.
In the group, parents post pictures of their graduating seniors, describing their accomplishments and what they will be doing after high school. Group members will then “adopt” a senior by giving them gift baskets or any of the items on their wish list, afterwards posting pictures of their efforts.
Camarillo said she was inspired to create the group after learning of similar efforts in other cities, as well as seeing her 16-year-old daughter forced to stay home and be unable to visit with her friends.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to put a smile on a senior’s face,” she said. “The proof is in the pudding. I see these thank-you posts, I see how excited they are.”
The Class of 2020 also holds special meaning for Camarillo, as her daughter Caley, who died in 2014 after a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis, would have graduated high school this year.
“These are all the things my daughter would’ve done,” she said. “Instead of being sad about it, I decided that I’m just going to enjoy your kids.”
Camarillo formed the nonprofit Breathe for Caley foundation in honor of her daughter, helping families who are going through the same struggles.
The Adopt a High School Senior in Gilroy 2020 group will remain active until the last graduation on June 5. Camarillo estimates there are nearly 1,000 seniors in Gilroy, and she hopes the group will reach as many as possible, encouraging parents to post in the group.
“We have wanting and willing members who are eagerly waiting for more seniors,” she said.
To view the group, search for “Adopt a High School Senior in Gilroy” on Facebook.