SALEM, N.H. — They dream of opening businesses, serving their country and helping those in need.

But first, Salem seniors have to navigate the end of high school under quarantine.

School officials say the ongoing pandemic will prevent a traditional graduation ceremony on Grant Field. No hope remains either for the highly anticipated prom.

For 17-year-old Brianna Tarness, the cancellations only meant getting creative to celebrate her classmates. She turned to Facebook to put a local spin on a concept being used in communities across the country.

Aptly named “Adopt a Senior Salem NH,” Tarness’ page allows the Class of 2020 to post a bit about themselves alongside photos of high school highlights. They mention their involvement with sports and clubs, as well as hopes for life after Salem High.

Parents, former teachers and members of the community read through the posts and choose who to “adopt.”

That person passes on cards, encouraging notes and sometimes small gifts, like gift cards and books. So far, 50 students and 550 community members have joined the private page, which Tarness monitors for requests to join.

“Everyone gets adopted,” Tarness said, “by at least one person. It could be someone they know or someone random.”

The page allowed Stella Hazelton, 17, to reconnect with her fourth-grade teacher and be recognized by some family friends, she said. The Starbucks gift cards, candy and notes she received have lifted her spirits.

“It has reminded me that I’m not going through this alone,” she said. “There are kind people who want to help put a smile on our faces.”

Emily Mahoney, also 17, describes a similar experience.

“I was adopted by a former high school teacher of mine,” she said. “It feels really great knowing that even our past high school staff members are on our side.”

Salem High athletes, performers, musicians, artists, and members of JROTC are all represented on Tarness’ page.

“Not only is the page good for connecting students to community members, but it’s also keeping all of us in touch,” Tarness said. “The kids that you may not have known very well, they’re feeling just like you are and need support too.”

Tarness plans to study biology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in pursuit of a career in medicine.

According to a recent email to parents from Principal Tracy Collyer, the Facebook page is not affiliated with the School District.

"We want our students to be recognized, but we also want them to be safe," Collyer said. "I had an obligation to inform parents of what was happening and to caution any of our students about sharing personal information online."

Do you know a "Hometown Hero?" Send your ideas to staff reporter Breanna Edelstein at bedelstein@eagletribune.com or leave a message at 978-946-2234.

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