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Across the country, high school seniors are missing out on their final year of school, and not graduating the way they envisioned. A Facebook group called “Love on a High School Senior 2020” gives people the chance to “adopt” these students by agreeing to send them gifts for college and be their mentor. GPB talked to page founder April Ford, high school senior Tony Gregg Jr, and Crystal Toombs, who adopted Tony.
April Ford: Hello, my name is April Ford. I currently live in the Hinesville, Georgia area, down by Fort Stewart. I started the "Love On a High School Senior" group back like April the 7th or something like that. The group initially was just about — I'd never expected the group to be what it is now. It was really just started just to show the class of 2020, the high school seniors that were graduating this year, just a little bit of love when the whole pandemic started.
You know us as adults, like what we knew as normal, like something as simple as is toilet tissue, we couldn't find it. We couldn't find toilet paper. So you have these babies that one day they were in school and the next day, they you know, the school that you know — they're not in school anymore. And then, as the weeks went on, you know, OK, there's no prom. There's the possibility of no graduation. And they don't have that — once this chapter closes, they don't get it back. That was one of the main things, the main goals of starting the group was just to show them that they are appreciated and their hard work isn't in vain.
Tony Gregg Jr: My name is Tony Gregg Jr and I'm graduating from Lee County High School. And I will be attending Valdosta State University in fall 2020. And I'm from Lee County.
Crystal Toombs: How do I know Tony? I know him, he is actually a friend of my niece's. They go to high school together. And he was actually on the "Love Your Senior 2020" Facebook page.
Tony Gregg Jr: Crystal, why did you choose to adopt me?
Crystal Toombs: We chose to adopt you, Tony, because your profile lined-up with our values as a family. And it also allowed us to see that there is much more good in this world. And not only that you are a young man wanting to go to college and to be successful, but you're also a young black man who's striving for change and difference. And so we wanted to help you in any way possible to reach your goals because we believe in you. And that's why we adopted you.
As Tony is my adoptee, I think the first thing that I did, because the host site does have a sheet that they put out with things that students like and, you know, things that they may need. And so what I did was I reached out to your mom, Tony, and I just asked her, you know, if you had a laptop or the requirements. And so she told me that you had one. But I think that she was going to get you a new one just for school. And so we looked at Valdosta State's web site, and we checked the specs for the computer. And then the computer you picked out is perfect. So you'll be probably be receiving a notification probably within a day or so, just to go and pick it up. So, you know, we're just very proud of you. Very proud of you.
Tony Gregg Jr: Thank you very much. I can't even talk right now. It makes me feel very happy knowing that I have another, extra person that cares about me and my well-being. And when I go to the school, I'm very thankful that I have another person just looking over me, basically like a mentor and a friend.
Crystal Toombs: You know, we got you, you know, and just that extra layer for your mom. You know, mom is always gonna be there, you know? So mom is always mom. But just to have that extra layer of support, that's huge when it comes to being successful in college. And we do say it often. And it has become cliche-ish, but it does take a village to raise a child. And it takes more than your immediate family. Just to have someone in your corner is huge, it's invaluable.
Tony, what has been quarantined during this time? What have you learned most about yourself?
Tony Gregg Jr: I've learned the most about myself is that, I have like great friends and I'm a person that cares a lot. I know I text either once a week or I'd try twice a week to check on my friends and everything. One of my friends had a uncle or auntie that had COVID-19 and then recently I think we hung out. I think last week, we hung ouy last week. He was like, "my auntie had beat COVID-19." And I was like—we're just happy, we're just happy in the car. And I was driving and I had to pull over because we were too happy. Next thing you know: OK, I got to check my friends out and everything. So I'm like a real caring person.
Crystal Toombs: And I know that to be true. I know that definitely you are one that just looks to make sure the people that are connected to you are OK. And I want to make sure that you maintain that quality, not only here in high school, but also when you get to Valdosta State, because that is going to serve you well.
April Ford: My message to the class of 2020: you guys are amazing. You are simply amazing. You have endured so many things. We laugh about it. You guys were around, you were being born during 9/11. So now you tell the story that you survived COVID-19 during your high school graduation. If you can overcome this, you can overcome anything. You guys are ready. You are ready to come for the world. So continue to please strive for greatness and just know that it's all up to you. You can do it.