| Ryan Feyre
AGAWAM – A small group of parents and organizers in Agawam are putting together “gift boxes” for 2021 Agawam High School graduates.
Local coordinators Wendy Rua and Sherry Balzano, as well as other local parents in Agawam, developed this gift box idea to support and recognize the “resilience” of Agawam High School’s seniors.
According to Rua, who is also a part of the Agawam School Committee, the organizers came up with this concept based on how other communities outside of Massachusetts were recognizing their seniors.
“We saw some articles on how seniors were being celebrated,” said Rua. “It just brought up conversation among us about ‘we need to do the same.’”
There is a group of Agawam seniors that are graduating in January, so Rua and company decided that it was best to get the gift boxes ready as soon as possible so those groups of students can receive these offerings.
Rua and Balzano’s initial idea was to ask residents to donate items that could be distributed to the seniors. They found this method to be a little tricky though, as distribution would prove to be difficult in that situation.
The parents instead decided to set a price point of $15 for every senior – 268 seniors in all – and established a GoFundMe page for residents to donate their desired amount to go toward these gift boxes. Rua figured that $15 each for 268 seniors would amount to a total of approximately $4,000. With this money, the organizers could then order the items for each senior’s gift box. If a resident donates $7, that would be enough for a T-shirt.
“We have other parents who have said, ‘we’ll be there to help you distribute; we’ll be there to help you stuff the bags,’” said Rua. “We have a crew that are ready and waiting, and eager to help.”
Rua believes that it is important to celebrate the 2021 senior class because they essentially lost a year and a half of high school events that usually happen in normal years, like proms, band concerts, and pep rallies.
“There’s just so many losses,” said Rua. “And on top of the fact that they’re stressed with applying to college; they’re stressed with trying to figure this stuff out remotely. There are just too many things that are present for them every day.”
The community also plans to have special signs and parades in the spring for the 2021 graduates, which would be similar to what Agawam did for their 2020 seniors this past year. Rua also explained that this is the first of many events that parents have planned for the 2021 seniors. She described the gift boxes as the “kickoff event.”
“Our community was so generous last year, so now we’re just hoping that we can bring the same heartwarming community spirit to this class of seniors,” said Rua. “They really deserve the same outpouring of encouragement.”
There will be a gift box pickup day for 2021 graduates in mid to late-January, according to Rua. The pickup day will take place at the Agawam High School. In the meantime, residents are encouraged to donate money to the organization’s GoFundMe page, which is included here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ahs-class-of-2021-senior-recognition-gifts.