Everyone knows that when the coronavirus pandemic hit Kentucky in March, it wiped out traditional year-end events for 2020 high school seniors.

Dawn Welch wants to make sure 2021 seniors have a support system in place.

Welch started an adopt-a-senior program on Facebook, available to seniors at any high school in Franklin County.

“This is something special for the seniors this year,” Welch said. “Everybody thought last year, ‘Oh, those poor 2020 seniors not getting their end-of-senior-year experiences. This will be over before the 2021 school year,’ but it’s started and there’s no end in sight.

“We did this this year because seniors are missing out on big experiences.”

School is currently online only for the public high schools. Fall sports have begun, but with limited or no fans.

Welch’s daughter, Riley Welch, is a senior at Franklin County, where she’s a member of the marching band and a majorette. Because of COVID restrictions, the band won’t be performing at football games.

“I understand why some rules have been put in place, but it’s been difficult for her,” Welch said. “You see all the soccer games, the football team practicing, and the dance team is going to perform at football games. She’s not getting to be a part of it, and that’s been really difficult.”

Welch started the adopt-a-senior Facebook page to help take some of the sting out of missed experiences, and she’s been thrilled with the response.

“It’s been unbelievable,” she said. “We’ve adopted over 100 seniors in about a week. As soon as a senior is posted, they’re snatched up right away. The community response has been amazing. It helps to see the good in people.”

What is expected from people who adopt seniors?

“We don’t want to make it financially draining — just send them little notes, cards, encouraging thoughts, maybe little presents here and there,” Welch said. “Like at Halloween maybe send them a little bag of candy — just something to let them know someone is thinking of them during this hard time.”

Welch started the program by writing 10 of her friends who are parents of seniors and asking them to share.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Riley Welch, who has been adopted by a friend’s mother. “I don’t have a lot to look forward to this year, so it’s something to have.

“I really have always enjoyed homecoming,” she added about favorite school activities. “I hope we get to have prom. There have been senior picnics and some little fun field trips like how to do your taxes, and we’re probably not getting any of that this year.”

The Facebook page will remain active for the entire school year, and seniors can be put up for adoption any time during the year.

The public school systems have expressed a desire to return to in-person instruction during the 2020-21 year, but that depends on COVID-19.

“I think we can all agree if the kids go back to school, it’s not going to be normal,” Dawn Welch said. “It’s going to be different, and they’ll still be missing out on some things.”

For more information about the program or to see seniors available for adoption, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/334229507769725.

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