Local businesses, social media groups encourage Class of 2020 recognitions

HARLINGEN — The Class of 2020 will not have a traditional commencement ceremony and will miss making memories at prom.

With students unable to celebrate these milestone experiences, members of the community and local businesses have united to help lift their spirits.

Ruth Lara, who was born and raised in Harlingen but now resides in Corpus Christi, started a Facebook group called “Adopt a Senior” to highlight high school seniors in Harlingen.

In the page, Lara also encourages businesses to sponsor one of the highlighted seniors by giving them an incentive like a gift card.

“Our seniors this year, as we are all aware, are not being able to enjoy the fullness of how a senior year should be. This effort is only to help bring some joy to them,” Lara said.

“The gift can be a gift card, any amount someone would prefer. $25 has been the norm,” she said, adding that treat baskets can also be ordered through another sponsor on the page. “More than one senior can be ‘adopted.’ Presently, we have 20 seniors available.”

Lara started this page just last week but expects more presence throughout May. The seniors can be contacted directly through Facebook messenger.

Throughout the project, local businesses have stepped in to help and sponsor the seniors.

“NY Deli was our first sponsor, and now they are doing their own. Also Panchito’s will be doing free meals next month for seniors, and we’ll be posting their info on our page as well. Presently, Social Situations contacted me and will be donating three senior yard signs,” Lara said.

“This is a community effort, and as soon as they let me know what they are doing I’ll post on my page to give them credit,” she said.

Stephanie Rendon, 34, co-owner of New York Deli, was one of the first to join Lara’s project.

Rendon sponsored three seniors and gave each a $50 gift card. One of those seniors gave it back for Rendon to use to feed those in need.

After seeing what Lara was doing, Rendon and her husband started their own “adopt a senior” program, too.

“We know how meaningful these things are for seniors. Not only does it affect them but their parents, too,” she said.

“We are just trying to lift up their spirits,” Rendon said.

Other local businesses such as Flowers by Jesse have posted on their social media pages ideas to congratulate seniors on their special day.

“Give us a name of a senior and they will be picked out of a drawing. And we will deliver a flower bouquet to them,” the post read.

“This is usually done at their graduation ceremony, but in this case we can try to do something for them. We will deliver when it should have been their graduation date. I’m selecting 10 people to receive this,” the post read as of Tuesday afternoon.