Albion community adopts senior class, showers them with gifts

Photo by Tom Rivers: This group of volunteers distributed T-shirts on Friday to the adopters of members of the senior class in Albion The shirts say, “Senior Skip Day Champions – Class of 2020.” Pictured from left include kindergarten teacher Angie Wolfe, her son Caleb, Lynn DiBella and Sara Mathes.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 May 2020 at 9:47 am

Provided photo: Pretty Sweet Bakery in Albion made these eagle cookies for a senior.

ALBION – The Albion community has been showering members of the senior class with gifts and treats the past month as part of an Adopt-A-Senior program.

Many community members leave baskets full of snacks by the front doors for students. It’s mostly anonymous.

“This community has such an outpouring of love for these kids,” said Sara Mathes, one of the coordinators of the effort. “It’s been amazing.”

Mathes has a daughter, Chloe, who is in the Class of 2020. She and her classmates haven’t been in the school building on March 13. The Covid-19 has forced students to do remote learning. It has kept them from seeing their friends and teachers in person.

The pandemic also has derailed the spring sports season, the school musical and other extracurricular programs.

A typical graduation ceremony is iffy. The district is considering a virtual graduation on June 26 with a larger ceremony possibly later in the summer if restrictions are eased. The senior prom has been moved from June 12 to Aug. 6.

Sara Mathes feels bad the students are missing many moments together and there is still so much uncertainty.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Sara Mathes holds one of the T-shirts for seniors.

She created a Facebook page, “Adopt a AHS Class of 2020 Senior.” She was inspired after seeing another district, Ken-Ton in Erie County, adopt a senior.

Albion has 136 members in the senior class. Mathes was nervous there might not be 136 people willing to adopt a senior, especially during tough economic times.

She didn’t need to worry about that. Numerous people stepped forward to adopt a senior, so many that each senior has two people or families that have adopted them.

Mathes assigned the students randomly to the people in the community. She asked students their favorite snacks, hobbies and other interests and passed on the list to the adoptive community members.

About three weeks the gift baskets and boxes started showing up at seniors’ homes. The items have continued since then and probably will right up to graduation in late June.

Mekhi Rivera, a senior, posted his appreciation on the Adopt A Senior Facebook page.

“I am so thankful to be a part of this adopt a senior thing we are doing!” he said. “Cassie and Brian Schomske and Debbie Prest made me so happy with these gifts! Thank you for doing this and ever body else that is doing this we are all thankful for the time and money you have put into us it means a lot.”

Provided photo: Mekhi Rivera has a big smile when he received a gift from an adoptive community member.

Some seniors know their adoptive community members, but many do not. Mathes has kept it anonymous, leaving it to the community members if they want to reveal themselves.

“Every June at graduation we pack the gym and cheer for them,” Mathes said about the usual commencement, which is attended by about 2,000 people in the high school gymnasium. “This is a way to keep doing that. They see that the community cares for them.”

On Friday, Mathes was at the gazebo by the Erie Canal in Albion, distributing “Senior Skip Day Champions – Class of 2020.” The community is covering the cost of the shirts for every member of the class.

The shirts were picked up by the adoptive community members to be added to the next gift basket or box for the seniors.

Debbie Liberti, a teacher’s aide and the cheerleading coach, adopted one of the students. Liberti has enjoyed showering the student, one of her cheerleaders, with love during a stressful time.

“I know some of the seniors are feeling bad,” Liberti said. “So this is for a good cause. These kids deserve so much.”

Lynn DiBella retired as an aide in the prekindergarten program last year. She organized the T-shirt effort. DiBella initially just wanted to get a T-shirt about skip day for her adopted senior. She put it on Facebook, seeing if anyone else wanted to go in on an order. It quickly gained steam for enough orders for all seniors.

Angie Wolfe, a kindergarten teacher, helped with the distribution on Friday. She is impressed to see the Purple Eagle community rally around the senior class.

“I feel bad the seniors are missing out on so much,” Wolfe said. “I just want to brighten their day.”

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