For teachers like Rawan Fakhoury in San Bernardino, her students mean everything to her and bring hope in a time of uncertainty. Though a real graduation is not possible, she “adopted” nine seniors to celebrate them in her own way. Working in education was always a life calling for Fakhoury, because it allowed her to be the teacher she wishes she had while growing up.
“I’m celebrating the 2020 seniors as this was my first group of students I had ever taught in 7th and 8th grade. They are all part of my story as a teacher. I’ve been looking forward to cheering them on from the stands for years. Now, I will cheer them on from their front yard,” said Fakhoury.
When seniors and their families found out about the “adopt-a-senior” program through a private Facebook group, they were immensely thankful. Initially it was parents and loved ones posting about their senior, but then seniors began posting about themselves.
“When the greater community saw a need to show our graduating seniors that we support their successes by creating the ‘adopt-a-senior program,’ many of our members jumped at the chance to adopt our students. This is one small way that we can make our seniors feel special since they lost out on so many of the traditional senior activities and celebrations. I too adopted a senior and the look of joy and pride on her face when I delivered her gift is something I will not soon forget. I am very proud of our members, who have stepped up during this crisis to ensure that our students feel supported and loved,” said Ashley Bettas-Alcalá, President of the San Bernardino Teachers Association.
Delivering the “I Care” packages made up of end-of-year graduation treats, photos, and professional signs had many of the parents in tears. “It’s a beautiful thing to see everyone coming together. The seniors I adopted could not stop smiling when they saw their celebration gift. One senior told me about how hard it was for her and her family to miss out on her graduation and then she focused it on me by saying, ‘This must be hard on you since we’re your first group of students you ever taught.’ It was very difficult to miss out on their graduation this year, but I know that when their day comes to walk across the stage and receive their diploma, it will be a momentous day for all,” said Fakhoury.
Even during a global pandemic, one thing is for certain – the spirit of educators is alive in the most difficult of times. “Regardless if we know the seniors personally, when it comes to San Bernardino City Unified, these are all OUR seniors. We take care of our kids no matter what. They deserve so much more, but I hope that I was able to brighten their day and show them that the Class of 2020 is not forgotten during these trying times,” said Fakhoury.
Rawan Fakhoury teaches 8th grade U.S. History at Shandin Hills Middle School, and she is a Union Representative for the San Bernardino Teachers Association.