STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) — For many teens, graduating marks the culmination of 12 years of school and the transition into adulthood. But because of the pandemic, many students have had their senior year turned upside down.
“Everyone in the senior class has worked for it for a really long time,” said Tokay High School senior Thomas Gaytan Jr.
For many students like Thomas, graduation day may not happen at all.
“I was just really hoping, you know, I get a walk with all my friends,” said Thomas. “We all get to hang out afterwards and just celebrate together but that might not get to happen anymore. So, it just kind of sucks.”
That moment is why parents and people in the community are looking for new and creative ways to honor the 2020 graduating class.
“Graduation is a milestone that, you know, you start dreaming about for your kids from the moment you find out you’re pregnant,” said Thomas’ mother, Cassie Gaytan. “So, it’s not just them that’s missing out.”
Gaytan’s son is a three-sport athlete who competed in soccer, football and would have been competing in his last track season.
“We had a lot of stuff planned, me and my friends going on through the rest of senior year,” said Thomas. “It kind of all just ended.”
Upset that senior year was ruined for her son and many others, Gaytan took to Facebook and created the Adopt a 209 Senior Class of 2020 group.
“Where we can adopt local seniors and just spread the love,” said Gaytan.
Once added to the group, parents can post photos and a short bio about their graduating senior and highlight their accomplishments.
They are then matched and adopted by a stranger who will send something to a student.
“I just thought it would be good for them to be recognized,” said Gaytan.
The group was created Monday night and already has more than 100 members. But Gaytan is hoping to add hundreds more and match every graduating senior with a sponsor.
“It means a lot because not only, like, does it show that other people are caring, it shows that people are doing something in community to help other people that are going through something right now,” said Thomas.
While, he hasn’t received anything yet, the act of kindness and the show of support isn’t lost on him.
“Whatever I get I’m gonna be happy for it. The fact someone was willing to reach out and even give me something means a lot to me,” said Thomas.
If you would like adopt a 209 senior, you can visit the Facebook page by clicking here.