NJ moms find way to celebrate class of 2020 without graduation

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WAYNE, N.J. — It’s the time of year when we celebrate the graduates, only this year, everything has changed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The pandemic forced schools to close, and students were advised to finish the rest of the academic year through remote learning. School events, including graduations, were also canceled for the year.

Rather than a stage to walk in front of family and teachers and friends, students are getting their diplomas in the mail.

Several seniors have voiced their frustration over their canceled graduation event. “We just want to walk like the normal graduation experience, rather than virtual” senior Jessica Iannelli said.

“I deserve to graduate. You know, I don’t want my diploma coming in the mail,” Ryan D’Argenio echoed.

Katie Ballinger has been at home thinking of what could have been. “The idea of a graduation party was to have all my friends and family together.”

Despite the canceled graduation events, several communities are finding new ways to celebrate everything their graduates have achieved.

Two New Jersey moms wanted so much more for their high school seniors and all their friends. With the help of a Facebook page, they enlisted the help of their neighbors to celebrate all 700 of them.

Mom Christina Hacker recounted how the idea started, “We’re not going to sit back and be quiet. Mama bear comes out!”

“It’s devastating. It’s heartbreaking. I’m not gonna lie, I cried. My heart breaks for all these seniors that are missing out on this rite of passage,” Amy Bollinger said, recounting the day they learned graduation was off.

Hacker and Bollinger wanted to find a more personal way to celebrate the hard work of the graduating seniors of Wayne, New Jersey.

Their Facebook pitch? Adopt a senior and shower them with the ‘congratulations’ they were missing out on. The response was nearly instant.

“We had over 1,000 members in the group that only started last week,” Bollinger said.

Parents started sharing what makes their seniors shine. While neighbors, and even total strangers, were jumping at the chance to give the teens a memorable sendoff.

Baskets and gift cards started pouring in, personalize swag, candy and baked treats arrived — pushing away the tears and bringing smiles.

The moms hoped it would provide inspiration to other communities to break with tradition while still honoring the milestone.

“We still have a long way to go, but we do have a lot of babies getting love right now,” Hacker said.

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