Facebook group gives back to seniors

Seniors+in+the+Blair+County+area+are+receiving+gifts+during+quarantine.+Shannon+Stiteler+a+parent+in+Blair+County+created+a+Facebook+page+allowing+community+members+to+%22adopt%22+seniors+who+will+be+missing+their+last+major+milestones+in+a+traditional+way.+

McKenzie Quirin

Seniors in the Blair County area are receiving gifts during quarantine. Shannon Stiteler a parent in Blair County created a Facebook page allowing community members to "adopt" seniors who will be missing their last major milestones in a traditional way.

McKenzie Quirin, Reporter

With the 2019-2020 school year being finished at home due to the ongoing pandemic Coronavirus, seniors all around the world lost things they have been waiting for their entire lives. The seniors feel they will be missing out on milestones they will never be able to get back.

To give some relief to the senior students missing out, a Blair County parent created a Facebook group called “Blair County Adopt A High School Senior.” This group allows parents of seniors to recognize all of the achievements gained throughout their education. 

The group allows parents one post per graduate. Parents initiate the post by telling about their senior while including the city and school. Community members then step in and “adopt” the senior nominated by parents.  Once the senior is adopted parents can send a list of likes and contact information for the person who has adopted the senior and will be surprising him or her.

Parent Shannon Stiteler and her mother Amy Gray started this Facebook group and currently are the admins for the group. Stiteler started this group because she felt for the seniors this year since she has one herself. 

“I started the group because I have a senior this year. We are all originally from Altoona, and I wanted to give back and pay it forward to my hometown. I know how much it crushed my son. He has worked so hard to get to where he is at. He had a rough childhood, and he pushed through. He feels that all the hard work he did was for nothing. So I knew that other seniors felt the same exact way,” Stiteler said. 

Stiteler and Gray wanted to let the seniors of Blair County know they are their for them during these times. 

“A few of us down where I live were talking about creating a group where the seniors can be recognized. A few friends started it down here, and my mother and I created it for Blair County. My mother and I came up with the idea to start the group for Blair County. She still lives there, and I was born and raised there so that’s my home. And we just wanted these seniors to know that we care, and they are not alone. We have their backs,” Stiteler said. 

Through this group Stiteler hopes to help encourage the seniors during an unprecedented time.

“The whole community is coming together to show support for these seniors. This is supposed to be their year. All of the things that you’re supposed to do your senior year, all their firsts: prom, cap and gown, graduation, senior trips all of their firsts they are not going to experience. So we just wanted to put a smile on their faces and make them feel special and let them know we see you,” Stiteler said. 

The “Adopt A Blair County High School Senior” facebook group grew rapidly since it was created. The group now has over five thousand members. Stiteler knew the group would see many members but never this amount. 

“I knew it would be big, but I didn’t know this group would have almost 5,000 members. I knew it would grow because of the heartache and hurt we feel for these kids right now. We are all grieving together. And we wanted to let them know that we care,” Stiteler said. 

Various teachers and members of the AAHS school community have participated in helping the seniors during this time. 

Teachers involved in the group thought that this was a way to honor the seniors during a heartfelt time. 

Well first let me say that this crisis that we are faced with has put school districts in such a difficult situation. All the county schools and communities are different, so they are not all able to do the same things for their students. Seniors in particular. When I saw this group, my first thought was “what a great idea”- any senior in the county could be honored by this group – in my experience there are always people willing to help, but sometimes they need to be asked. I wanted to help, so I joined,” community service teacher and student council adviser Kimberly Shope said. 

I thought it was such a great idea! A great way to make the senior year, for students that are missing out on so much, memorable! Good memories for a time that was not all that good,” health and physical education teacher Megan Yingling said.

Yingling and Shope believe this group is a way for them to look forward to something all while reminding them their teachers continue to be there for them. 

“I think it will remind them that their teachers and community care and are thinking of them,” Yingling said. 

When seniors left school on March 12 or 13 they did so expecting to return the following Monday. But that did not happen, and I think there began to be a lot of “what ifs” rolling around in everyone’s heads because we simply did not have a timeline to return to normal classes and routines and as time has gone on it became evident that seniors never would get a chance to do all the things they do, one last time. That’s hard for adults let alone students to wrap their heads around. I also think there was so much anticipation around end of school year activities that were now up in the air. This Facebook group allowed the seniors “missing” this time with friends and classmates a chance to look forward to something, and let’s be honest when someone does something special for you it makes you feel good. This group is making seniors feel good during a potentially sad time,” Shope said. 

Teachers are filled with excitement whenever they know they have the ability to help someone even while stuck in quarantine. 

I was excited to leave a surprise on their doorsteps! Everyone loves a surprise,” Yingling said.

I think the “giver” feels good about brightening someone’s day. So many people want to do something to help and no matter what is done, a card with a handwritten note of inspiration, or bright balloons or flowers, or favorite foods, or items related to the seniors future at work or schooling – it all means a lot to the senior and to their families, who are struggling to keep their spirits up. As for the giver, it’s nice to put a smile on someone’s face. Our adoptee has been so appreciative of our efforts to keep her spirit up, I think it in turn keeps our hopes and spirits up as well. All adopters have taken a different approach to “treating” the senior(s) they adopted. Our family’s approach has been to make contact weekly until school is out. We have had a great deal of fun coming up with ways to make our adopted seniors feel special and not overlooked in the midst of all this craziness,” Shope said. 

Seniors who have received gifts from loved ones and teachers are appreciative of the support in this unknown world everyone is living in. 

It showed me how much of a support system I have not because of the gifts but the very idea of reaching out during such an uncertain time,” senior Jazzmine McCauley said. 

Stiteler knows she has succeeded in creating joy and being a helping hand to the seniors during this time through her Facebook group. 

“Everything that these members are doing for these seniors is so amazing. Seeing them smile when they get a gift in the mail that they had no idea was coming mends my heart. Or even just a letter to let them know how much we care. That is why I created this group. To see the joy on their faces. To see the smiles. I feel like we have succeeded in what this group was created to do,” Stiteler said.