Adrian Jones graduated as the valedictorian of Edison Career and Technology High School within the Rochester City School District.
But he wasn’t able to give his speech in front of his fellow classmates. By the time graduation came around, it was canceled.
“At the beginning, it's the whole college process so everything's kind of hectic and crazy,” Jones said. “And then when it’s finally over, you expect for all the fun stuff about senior year to start happening -- and then everything just came to a halt.”
When the coronavirus reached Rochester, school buildings closed and classes went online. Jones said that he worked two jobs while keeping up with his studies. Virtual classes, he said, allowed him enough flexibility to balance school and work
This coming fall, he plans to attend Kent State University. It was a decision he said he had to navigate mostly alone.
“It was just stressful not knowing what I wanted to do and like where I was going, and with everything happening, it was just hard to find people to help,” Jones said.
High school seniors are graduating without ceremonies. Without that rite of passage, community members around Rochester are pulling together to help graduates celebrate the end of one journey and the start of the next.
Around April, Sedawnie Williams, a restorative justice counselor with the Center for Youth, started organizing a community project to match graduating high school seniors with “Senior Fairies,” or adults who would give gifts to each senior.
“I wanted to show some appreciation as a community,” Williams said. “I think it was a great way for the community to come together, you know, celebrate them because there was so much going on with COVID-19, and that’s all the talk was to the point seniors felt like they were forgotten.”
About 320 seniors have been “fairied,” Williams said. For Jones, his “Senior Fairy” gave him about half of what was on his dorm checklist, which was more than he was expecting.
“A lot of people don't have the means to get what they want to get for college. Their main concern is just paying to go,” he said. “So to have the luxury of somebody being able to help you out and gift you with things, I think is really good.”
Williams said that with all that’s been going on, it was time for something uplifting.
“Even in a pandemic, we can come together and we can do something positive,” she said.