West volunteers provide signs of hope for graduating seniors

Photo 7481: Photo courtesy of Lisa Begley. Cherry Hill High School West seniors Jack
Begley (L) and Nicholas Sylvester (R) pose with the #seniorstrong sign.

During these dark times, everyone could use signs of hope.

For the Cherry Hill High School West community, those signs quite literally appeared on  lawns last Saturday.

Volunteers from West’s Project Graduation team and the West Parent-Teacher Association secretly placed a sign on the lawn of every single graduating senior on May 2. The signs congratulate the graduation class and encourages it to say #seniorstrong.

Judi Sylvestri, co-chair of West’s Project Graduation, said in the past, the program sold signs during graduation meetings where parents learned about the procedures surrounding commencement. 

This year, with those meetings cancelled and an unclear timeline on when or if a formal graduation ceremony will take place, the Project Graduation team began brainstorming ways they could honor seniors who are missing out on seminal senior events.

Sylvestri said Project Graduation members discussed the signs and felt as if there were  no safe way to distribute them. Then, she and project Co-Chair Rachel Adams, along with PTA president Melissa Lang and Treasurer Kristen Chance, came up with an idea. 

There was some money in the budget, so why not purchase the signs and safely put them on people’s front lawns as a surprise, to let West seniors know that they haven’t been forgotten amid the pandemic. 

The school provided the project with a list of addresses, and on that Saturday morning, a team of volunteers awoke early to place more than 300 signs on lawns. For those living in apartment buildings, parents were emailed and told to pick up a sign at West between 10:30 and 11 a.m. that same morning. 

“So many people are lonely, or suffering from the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, not knowing what is next.,” Sylvestri noted. “We just wanted them to know that they are a part of a very special community, and we are here for you.”

For senior Jack Begley, the message was received. 

“There’s a lot we’re missing out on; [they] reminded us that you’re still really important, and that we care about you,” he said. “It was awesome to see that.” 

While he admits some sadness at missing out on senior events, Begley understands  there’s no one to blame; he’s just grateful to have a supportive community. 

“I think it just shows how strong we all are together and how we all care for one another,” he said. 

His mother Lisa Begley, said she was moved to tears when she awoke and saw the sign on their lawn. Jack is the last of her three children to graduate from the Cherry Hill school system. 

The thought of him not having his moment to walk across the stage and receive his diploma has left her sad for him and his fellow seniors. So to wake up and see the sign was a reminder that there is still reason to celebrate. 

Afterward, she went on social media and learned that every family with a West senior had received a sign. People eagerly posted photos online and thanked Project Graduation and PTA volunteers for their efforts. 

“It connected everybody,” Lisa Begley said. “It kind of brought everyone together in a way that was a real gift.”