BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the country inside out and upside down over the last two months, forcing the closure of workplaces, nonessential businesses and the humdrum of normal life. It also forced schools to close and pivot to online learning for the rest of the year. All students are missing out on end-of-the-year activities, but none more so than high school seniors. In an attempt to ease the pain of missing prom and graduation, Bloomfield residents have “adopted” seniors in town; they pair up with a graduate and send them a card, gift or words of encouragement.
“This was something I saw happening elsewhere and thought it was a great idea to show that the community supports BHS seniors,” Tina Cochran, whose daughter is a senior at Bloomfield High School, said in an email to the Independent Press on May 15. “I have a senior myself, and everyday it seems like there is another letdown, so I just wanted to try to set up a way to send some cheer to these seniors. They have worked so hard and are such a great group of kids. They are missing out on so much this year: senior fest, yearbook signing, saying goodbye to their friends and teachers, and graduation.”
Seniors or their parents can join the Facebook group “Celebrate Bloomfield High School Seniors!” and post a picture and fill out a form that asks about their favorite things. Community members who are looking to sponsor a senior match themselves up, and then it’s up to them to decide what they want to do for the graduate. Approximately 110 of the 460 BHS seniors have been adopted so far.
“The positivity and generosity is amazing,” Cochran said.
Jennifer Bretz’s daughters, Katie and Shannon, are BHS seniors who have been adopted in the group, and Jennifer Bretz adopted Cochran’s daughter Felicia.
“We want to put some focus on the seniors,” Jennifer Bretz said in a phone interview with the Independent Press on May 15. “What’s going on is tragic, and we all get that. But we still want to bring some positivity to seniors who are missing out. Hopefully this will be a distant memory soon.”
The seniors have been sharing the group among themselves and encouraging one another to join, especially because plans for a graduation ceremony at Foley Field remain so uncertain. Felicia Cochran said in a phone interview with the Independent Press on May 16 that it’s possible prom will be held over Thanksgiving break in November.
“It’s definitely comforting, because we’re missing out, and we can’t do anything about it,” she said about the adopt-a-senior group. “So it’s been really nice of them. They’ve been really generous.”
Both Felicia Cochran and Jennifer Bretz said teachers from BHS all the way down to the elementary schools have joined the group and are adopting their current or former students. Even people who don’t know anyone in the school system have been getting involved.
“As parents, we’re trying to help as much as we can,” Jennifer Bretz said. “And I think it’s been bringing the community together.”