Community comes together to ‘adopt’ Clearview high school seniors

Parents, teachers and other residents in Harrison and Mantua sponsor more than 250 graduates

Throughout the month of May, new Facebook groups have been popping up left and right, inviting users to “adopt” a senior at high schools throughout South Jersey.

The adoption process involved community members pairing up with a graduating senior. The adopter can then send the senior small gifts in the weeks leading up to graduation. The idea behind the campaigns is to cheer up the thousands of graduates in the region who have seen nearly all of their year-end activities cancelled due to COVID-19.

Mantua resident Tina Rouh is a parent of one of the more than 300 seniors in this year’s Clearview Regional High School graduating class. After reading a news article about another community sponsoring an adopt a senior campaign, she decided to start one for Clearview students.

“They worked so hard for senior year to come because they expect all of these things they looked forward to,” Rouh said. “Everything is just getting pulled away from them. It makes the parents feel helpless. We can’t make these things happen.”

On May 7, Rouh launched the Facebook group, “Clearview Regional Adopt a Senior Class of 2020.” Nearly two weeks later, more than 700 users had joined the group and more than 250 seniors had already been adopted.

Rouh described the group as a true community effort. Early on, she decided to get the school community involved after realizing how enormous a job it would be to get in touch with every Clearview family.   Rouh reached out to Clearview Assistant Principal Dawn Scalfaro for help.

“It seemed like a good idea to have the school participate,” Rouh said. “They have more information than we do.”

Scalfaro, with the help of senior class advisor Christina Boody and school Librarian Arlen Kimmelman, began figuring out which students weren’t adopted and reaching out to their families.

“We were going through the Facebook group and checking kids off,” Scalfaro explained, later adding that she didn’t want any students to be left out.

Working with school administration was an advantage for Rouh: The school was able to send out an mass email informing the community about the campaign. Scalfaro also was able to contact staff members and quickly find matches for students who were not yet adopted.

The partnership between Rouh and the high school was successful. In the first two weeks the group was opened, more than 250 members of the senior class had been adopted, with many having already received gifts. Last Tuesday, Scalfaro estimated the school still had about 60 seniors left to get in contact with.

Getting every senior adopted is not the end goal for the group. Students are allowed to be adopted more than once and Rouh said the group will continue to allow adoptions to continue well into June.

“We provided a favorites sheet for the students to fill out,” Rouh said in explaining the process. “ We pretty much left it up to the parents with what they want to do. Everyone has different income levels and everyone has different ideas.”

One of the most fulfilling parts of the campaign for Scalfaro is the joy of calling a family whose senior had just been adopted to discuss the details.

“It’s the best thing I’ve been doing right now,” she said. “(The students) post their pictures; they are so happy.

“We have such a good community anyway,” Scalfaro added. “Everyone was clamoring for something positive. So many people who have never been on that Facebook page are joining left and right.

“It’s great to see the community coming together.”

Seeing her daughter and more than 200 other seniors receive gifts has helped lift Rouh’s spirits over the past couple of weeks. With the senior class knowing they will never return to class at Clearview and graduation plans in flux, Rouh believes the adopt a senior campaign gives students a reason to smile.

“They’re very upset about a lot of what’s going on,” Rouh said. “They feel like they didn’t get a goodbye. Their last day of school was March 12.

“They feel like they’re getting recognition for something that’s been taken away.”

To check out the Clearview adopt a senior group, visit www.facebook.com/group /240412207303554. Anyone with questions can email Rouh at  tinarou@yahoo.com or Scalfaro at DScalfaro@clearviewregional.edu.