OKEECHOBEE —With having to miss almost the entire second half of their last year in high school, seniors at Okeechobee High School aren’t going to have the opportunity to experience many of the things most take for granted.
Following the school shutdown after COVID-19, things like prom and graduation are now no longer happening or occurring in a much more limited fashion, and senior spring sports players missed their entire season.
Heidi Dove-Handford started an “Adopt a Senior” program in Martin County to help support and recognize those seniors who have been robbed of some of those experiences. The program lets local residents or businesses adopt a senior at their high school. Once adopted, a senior would then receive a gift ranging from things like a graduation basket, essential items for dorms, favorite snacks and drinks or really anything they would need to make the transition to the next phase of their life easy.
With the program already a success in Martin County, Heidi looked to expand it to Okeechobee as well. Former Brahman Daniel Kidd reached out and offered to help coordinate the program in his hometown.
“I asked to help because I knew it would be overwhelming,” said Mr. Kidd. “The way adopting a senior works is simple. Seniors, guardians or those looking to adopt or sponsor join the group on Facebook. From there we encourage seniors to post a short bio of themselves and their high school accomplishments. The sponsors are able to scroll through the group and pick who they would like to sponsor by commenting under the post. The sponsor would then reach out to the guardian of the grad expressing the interest to adopt and find the best way to support the grad.”
The “Adopt a Senior” Facebook group started with about a couple of dozen members. As of April 24 the group had grown to nearly 2,000 members.
“The response has been nothing short of amazing,” Mr. Kidd exclaimed. “It’s honestly the closest thing to a modern day miracle. Think about your senior year being taken from you along with spring break, your graduation and everything else. Then out of nowhere there’s this boost of life where everything in the media seemed so dark. If it helps these kids forget about a hectic reality only for just a moment and puts joy in their hearts and the parents’ lives, then I’m for it.”
Similar groups have started popping up all around Lake Okeechobee — “Adopt a Glades County High School Senior” and “Adopt a Hendry County High School Senior.”
“Residents in Glades County and elsewhere have stepped up and been very supportive ever since I started the Glades County Facebook group five days ago.” said Adopt a Glades County Senior group founder Rashondra Croskey. “My phone has been going nonstop since the group page began. If I didn’t have Bailey Browning, Teresa Coco and Cathy Keck helping me, I would be so behind getting seniors adopted. The best thing we can do is support our seniors and encourage them to hold their heads up. I am a teacher at Moore Haven Elementary School and unfortunately, my Pre-K babies won’t be able to have their graduation as well, but I continue to show them support and love. We will all get through this rough time.”
Sponsors have already started pouring in for OHS seniors, from individual residents of Okeechobee to local businesses. Mr. Kidd, a former player on the Brahman football team, reached out himself to sponsor a senior of his own.
“I had the opportunity to adopt Veyon Washington,” Mr. Kidd said. “Veyon was an anchor in our Brahman football program’s success last year. Being an alumni of OHS and former football player, I have a special relationship with the program and I try to give back as much as I’m able to. When I saw Veyon’s mother Yelena Robinson had posted his bio, I jumped without hesitation to adopt Veyon. He is without a doubt a great young man, and very respectful and humble. If the opportunity presented itself, I’d do it again 10 times over.”
You an find the Okeechobee group on Facebook online at facebook.com/groups/552211962166371, Glades County at facebook.com/groups/524284165125647 and Hendry County at facebook.com/groups/161033975242549.