April 26, 2020 Celebrations

Sioux City sisters start Facebook page for community to ‘adopt’ high school seniors

Soon to-be West High graduate Emily Vo with her sister Shelby Vo-Herfel

All year long, Emily Vo had been looking forward to the pomp and all of the circumstances that surround high school graduation.

But due to concerns related to COVID-19, everything began to change for the West High School senior in March.

Since schools were closed down, Emily’s final classes would be conducted online. Because of social distancing, large-scale events like school-wide commencement ceremonies were suddenly put on hold.

“Everything happened so quickly,” she said. “No senior prom, no May graduation, no parties, I felt really bad.”

However, Emily knew she wasn’t the only graduating high school senior who needed a way to celebrate such a significant achievement.

Indeed, she had seen Facebook groups pop up, asking people to “Adopt a Senior” they may or may not personally know.

“I had seen these social media groups paired graduating high school students with people willing to ‘adopt’ them,” Emily explained. “But there wasn’t a group dedicated to Siouxland students.”

That’s why Emily and her sister Shelby Vo-Herfel founded “Adopt a Senior – Siouxland Class of 2020” on Facebook a little over a week ago.

This is how it works.

A graduating senior is asked to submit their name and, if they like, a photo. At the top of the page, they can put “UP FOR ADOPTION” as well as short description of themselves, what they learned during their school years, and what their plans are for the future.

A person then has the option to “adopt” a senior by posting in the comment section. Once “adopted” by a person — or more than one person — a senior will receive well-wishes, cards or any type of recognition that would be commonplace in any other year.

Indeed, anyone within a 100-mile radius of Siouxland can join this public Facebook group.

“I graduated from high school in 2013,” Shelby said. “It would break my heart if Emily thought she was being shortchanged in any way because of circumstances out of her hands.”

Emily simply wanted her accomplishments — and the accomplishments of other graduating seniors — to be recognized.

Apparently, “Adopt a Senior – Siouxland Class of 2020” struck a nerve. More than 4,000 members have joined the group.

“It’s been so gratifying to see all of the positive feedback,” Emily said. “It fills my heart with joy.”

As the school days trickle down to a precious few, Emily is beginning to get the hang of online classes.

“Without the lectures in a classroom, it just doesn’t feel the same,” she said.

While commencement ceremonies will likely be held this summer, the Sioux City Community School District said all of the metro high schools are planning a “virtual” commencement on May 23.

Taken all together, this year’s graduations will be anything but normal.

“The only word I can think of is ‘suck,'” Shelby Vo-Herfel said. “It sucks to be a graduating senior this year.”

As for Emily, she is already planning for her future. This fall, she will be attending Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.

For now, she — as well as her fellow graduates — are looking forward to a return to normalcy.

“Knowing that there are people who are applauding your accomplishments feels good,” Emily said. “That’s what every graduate wants.”

View the full article by Earl Horlyk on the Sioux City Journal.