AUSTIN (KXAN) — The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot on hold, including major milestones for seniors ready to graduate high school this spring.

Graduations are postponed, proms are canceled and across Central Texas, students are finishing out their K-12 educations at home. “It’s been kind of difficult, but trying to make it work as best we can,” Jamie Cervantes, a senior at McCallum High School, said.

She was really looking forward to prom to round out her school career. Her twin brother, Jonathen, will miss just being at campus for the send-offs that accompany graduation, “seeing all of our friends, saying goodbye to our teachers, ” he said, “just getting that last graduation experience that I guess we won’t really get to have.”

Their mom, Leticia Alvarez, turned to Facebook to offer her kids some kind of celebration of their achievements. Dozens of “adopt a senior” pages have popped up on the social media platform in the weeks since schools moved to distance learning, including this one for the Austin area.

Twins Jonathen and Jamie Cervantes celebrate their 18th birthday. (Photos courtesy: Leticia Alvarez)

Parents post photos and details about their graduating seniors, and others can “adopt” them, offering to send gifts and notes of support.

“You’re missing out on these milestones,” Alvarez said, “but let’s make a different one.”

‘Everybody’s with these seniors’

Adreanna Almendarez-Pulido started the Austin-area group a week ago with her own graduating daughter, Kryseauna, in mind.

“Especially because of the unknown,” she said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen in the sense of prom, graduation, senior pictures that she hasn’t taken — just milestones that I have been looking forward to since she was a little girl.”

Her daughter started inviting friends, and in a week the group has grown to nearly 800 members as of Thursday morning. About 100 seniors had been adopted. Her own daughter was quickly adopted by a family friend.

Adreanna Almendarez-Pulido started the Austin-area adopt a senior page with her own graduating daughter in mind. (Image Courtesy: Facebook / Adreanna Almendarez-Pulido)

“It shows generosity, that people are still humble and caring and loving,” she said. “Everybody’s with these seniors going through what they’re going through.”

Almendarez-Pulido created the group initially after trying to post her daughter’s information on an existing Central Texas page with 15,000 members. The post was denied because she was outside the Waco-Temple-Killeen area that page caters to.

Other groups serve the whole state, individual schools like Akins or Jarrell high schools, as well as larger communities, like this page serving the area around Taylor.

Each has the same goal of showing love and appreciation for the years of hard work seniors put in. Almendarez-Pulido plans to keep her page running until May 22, close to the end of the school year and her daughter’s 18th birthday.

‘It’s not going to go unnoticed’

adopt a senior fb post
Leticia Alvarez’s post for her twin graduating seniors on a local “adopt a senior” page. (Image Courtesy: Facebook / Leticia Alvarez)

Alvarez’s twins were adopted within a few hours after she made the post. The adopter asked questions about the teenagers’ interests to send appropriate gifts.

“I appreciate this woman and what she’s doing for us,” Jamie Cervantes said. “I feel like we’re getting the same recognition that we would get at graduation.”

It means a lot to Alvarez, too. She’s missing out on her only kids’ milestones along with them, and the fact that strangers are willing to help sends the message, “‘We’re proud of you also,'” she said. “‘It’s not going to go unnoticed, your 12 years of schooling and accomplishments.'”