Parent’s post to get Musselman seniors ‘adopted’ goes viral

Janelle Sperry now knows the power of social media, and is amazed how quickly people responded to an online plea to help honor local graduating seniors.

In just about 24 hours, about 800 people joined her Adopt a Musselman Graduating Senior Class of 2020 Facebook page, and that number increased to more than 1,000 supporters Thursday afternoon, Sperry said.

"This has all happened since Tuesday because it was posted an hour after they closed the schools for the rest of the year," she said.

Since then, Hedgesville, Martinsburg and Spring Mills high schools also have started similar online campaigns that have garnered a lot of support.

Sperry said it was painful to see her daughter, Elizabeth Sperry, upset that her commencement was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But she also wanted to reach out to the other soon-to-be graduates, and quickly came up with a plan that resonated with other parents and even community members, Sperry said.

The goal is for each graduating senior to be adopted, and students also can be adopted by more than one person, she said.

"Right from the start, I got all of these comments, questions and offers from people who wanted to do even more. It has just been amazing," she said.

"My heart is so full right now. I told my husband through tears that we would never live in a city. What we have in our community is worth more than a city could ever put a price on."

The group is private, but individuals need only request to join, and that gives them access to seniors who can be "adopted."

Other group members — often parents — post the student's pictures and a paragraph or two about high school accomplishments and future plans, Sperry said.

Adopting a student means different things to different people, and could be something as simple as sending a handwritten note of congratulations or a graduation card, she said.

Others are planning to send a gift card, while some have made plans to have gifts delivered to the students' homes, she said.

"It really is the thought that counts because I think young people today would be touched to get something in the mail letting them know they aren't forgotten, even though the coronavirus has definitely changed their graduation plans," she said.

Elizabeth Sperry said she also has heard from friends and fellow classmates who are happy about the effort.

"A lot of my friends are really upset about this situation, so they have been really excited when they got adopted, and even used that word," she said, noting that a close friend's mother adopted her. "It's just so nice because it's caring about one another."

Heather Myers-Stevens, who organized the public Adopt a Martinsburg Graduating Senior 2020 Facebook page, said she didn't want her daughter, Deysia Harris, and friends to miss out despite the canceled graduation plans.

"Our seniors all deserve recognition, no matter how big or small of a gesture, because they've worked so hard so many years to have their day and special moment," she said, noting that about 50 seniors have been adopted so far.

Shannon Crawford, a past band booster president at Spring Mills High School, said it is important to reach out through social media since many people in the community are new to the area.

She also has contacted her community homeowners' association to help spread the word, as well as various yard sale sites to help bring attention to the Adopt a Spring Mills High School Senior–Class of 2020 public Facebook page, which currently has about 150 members.

The Adopt a 2020 Hedgesville High School Senior public Facebook page was created Thursday and has seven members.

"This is a difficult time for everyone, so let's show our seniors some love," the page states.

Article courtesy of The Herald-Mail, written by Jenni Vincent; photo submitted.