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Local organizations honoring high school seniors

SALISBURY –  The community has stepped up to recognize graduating students while sticking to social distancing.

Schools are putting signs in front of senior homes, lighting up their stadiums and coming up with ways to show support for student athletes who had their final seasons cut short. Local stores and organizations are doing their part to honor seniors graduating in a different time, too.

The Main Street Food Lion in China Grove has created a wall of senior photos. And while the wall is targeted at nearby schools, the store is accepting all senior photos.

“For what they’re already missing out on, we just wanted to make sure that they felt congratulated, not to mention that we also have a lot of seniors that work at our store,” said Customer Service Manager Kyla Amburn.

Hurley YMCA, as well as other local YMCA facilities, have longstanding partnerships with the schools. Swimming practice and meets are held at YMCA pools. The J.F. Hurley YMCA also partnered with RSS to provide elementary child care and recently began a program to teach every child in the district to swim. Three seniors from Salisbury High School were on the Hurley YMCA’s branch board in the past year as well.

“A lot of the schools, if not all of them have done something nice and gone into the communities,” said Hurley YMCA Director Richard Reinholz said.

The Hurley Y is posting slideshows with photos and information about seniors on its Facebook page. Any senior or family interested just needs to send the information to the Y.

Hurley Y Youth Development Coordinator Jennifer Burroughs came up with the idea. Burroughs said she thought, with everyone coming up with ways to honor seniors, the Y should as well.

“I just wanted to do something,” Burroughs said.

The Y has had 10 people respond to its posts asking seniors to send information so far.

Alisha Byrd-Clark, a Rowan-Salisbury Schools board member and founder of Gemstones and Compass Leadership Academy, started the Alex Clark Foundation in honor of her husband who recently passed away.

Byrd-Clark said this year there will be monetary donations to seniors who are selected by the youth in the program and that the nonprofit will also give out scholarships to seniors who are not in the program.

“This is the first time that we’ve ever done something for high school seniors who are not participants in our program,” Byrd said. “It gives those students throughout the county a chance to receive a scholarship and bless them with a monetary congratulations.

Students interested in the new scholarships can email alexclarkfoundation@gmail.com and should provide information about why they should receive a scholarship. That can include what they have been doing since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected their senior year.

Byrd-Clark said she knows there have been changes, but despite taking on e-learning and dealing with the pandemic, the seniors are prevailing. She hopes seniors will not become discouraged, go on to college or the work force and that this can be a teachable moment.

“Be proud of the accomplishments you have still made,” Byrd-Clark said.




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