The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough on everyone and students are no exception. Unfortunately, seniors have appeared to be the most impacted due to the normal last year events and traditions they are missing out on.
Highland High School (HHS) Teacher Jodi Olah has been helping remedy these losses.
Olah, back in the spring of 2020, set up the Highland “Adopt A Senior” Facebook page as a way to help the class of 2020 navigate through the last few months of their senior year.
The page allows members of the HHS community to “adopt” a senior student and give them gifts and support to encourage them to stay positive during online schooling.
The idea sparked for Olah after seeing how disappointed her own son, who was a 2020 senior, was over the loss of the end of his senior year.
“Like many people, when we were sent home last March, I was really sad and felt a bit lost,” Olah said. “I was also dealing with my own senior son and everything that was being cancelled for him. A friend of mine told me to check out the Adopt a Senior program that another town was doing. I knew instantly that I had to do one for Highland.”
The page’s growth was fast, effectively accumulating interest overnight.
“I launched the group on Facebook at 10 p.m. and woke up to 85 members. By the end of the first day, I had almost 40 seniors posted and adopted,” Olah said. “Almost the entire class of 2020 was posted and adopted within a month and I'm really proud of that. They were amazing kids and I was so happy for them and so grateful for all the love and support shown to them by the community.”
The program has helped lift the spirits of everyone involved, including Olah herself.
“Honestly, the best part is the daily pictures of happy, smiling faces that now fill my Facebook newsfeed. To be even a small part of that happiness is wonderful. It's also so great to see examples of good on a daily basis,” said Olah.
During a pandemic, moments of good like this are important.
“It's very heartwarming to see so many acts of kindness from strangers every day. It's good for the soul, especially during times of so much negativity,” said Olah.
Not only has the page had success bringing positivity during an uncertain time, but the impact has been even stronger thanks to so much of the community being involved. Seeing how the Highland community embraced the page meant a lot to Olah.
“The support amazes me every day,” Olah said. “Last month, the page hit 1,000 members, and I was blown away. To have some fun on the page, I started to do giveaways with T-shirts last year. Since that started, I have had hundreds of people, clubs, and businesses donate gift cards, services, photoshoots, T-shirts, and so much more. I have never once asked for it! That's just amazing to see people just being kind and doing good just because.”
Olah also appreciates those who have helped her out with running the page, allowing it to be a successful team effort.
“I also have appreciated all the parents who have stepped up to help me behind the scenes,” Olah said. “It takes a village and I could not have done this without help! I have always loved Highland and the community, but this past year has really shown me what a special town full of loving, caring people it really is.”
As far as the future of Adopt a Senior goes, it is hard to tell what it will hold due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, but Olah has some ideas.
“I never thought it would be in its second year; I would love to have no need for it next year! I would like to turn it into a scholarship,” Olah said. “My thought is to award a scholarship annually to a student who shows resilience, just like these seniors have. I would like the scholarship to be in honor of the Class of 2020 and 2021. Hopefully going forward, that's what will happen.”
Olah, who teaches English classes at Highland, has experienced the struggles of hybrid learning herself. In an English class, discussion and collaboration are key, so this has been an adjustment since some students are in class and some are at home.
“Because of COVID-19 and teaching both in-person and remote students, I have had to completely change the way I instruct and interact with my students. Tailoring lessons so they can be taught virtually and making sure students are understanding the content and also staying engaged while actually enjoying what they are learning has been the biggest challenge, but it has gotten better with time,” said Olah.
Though there have been many changes that have reminded Olah how much she appreciates teaching, having a personal relationship with her classes and talking to her students in person is what Olah misses most.
“I miss the daily interactions and hearing about their triumphs and challenges,” Olah said. “I think a successful classroom is a positive one where students feel comfortable and supported and that comes from your relationship with your students. I very much look forward to a classroom full of lively, chatty kids again! I miss that.”
Regardless of what happens in the coming school year, Olah has the same general advice that everyone can benefit from that coincides strongly with our mission here at GreatNews.Life.
“Always look for the good. And if you can't find it, then be it!”