‘Adopt a Senior’: Lancaster Communities Band Together to Support Students Missing Out on Rite of Passage Events

 In Camelot News

Originally published by Lancaster Online on May 11, 2020.








Nasiara Rosario-Brown, 17, a senior at McCaskey Campus, participating in the Adopt-a-senior program, outside her home in Lancaster Thursday May 7, 2020. CHRIS KNIGHT

For Nasiara Rosario-Brown, failure wasn’t an option.

Not when her father was incarcerated when she was young. Not when she was bullied in high school. Not when she fought her way to one detention center after another as an adolescent.

“It was hard growing up. I never really felt like I had support from my family, so I was just making bad choices,” Rosario-Brown said. “And eventually, for myself, I felt like that’s not who I am. I’m a good person. I have a good heart.”

In August, Rosario-Brown, 17, returned from “lockup,” as she calls it, and enrolled at School District of Lancaster’s Developing Academic and Social Health, or DASH, program, which serves students with behavioral challenges. She completed her credits, and, in June, she’ll earn a McCaskey Campus diploma.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, has taken the opportunity for Rosario-Brown and students across the nation to experience a traditional commencement or prom. So the School District of Lancaster community has come together through an “adopt a senior” social media page to support members of the class of 2020. Rosario-Brown is one of more than 230 Lancaster seniors to be adopted.








Nasiara Rosario-Brown, 17, a senior at McCaskey Campus, participating in the Adopt-a-senior program, outside her home in Lancaster Thursday May 7, 2020. CHRIS KNIGHT

The page, similar to others across the county, invites seniors to write a post including a brief biographical summary, what their interests are and whether they’ve been “adopted.” Within minutes, they’re typically snatched up.

“These kids are being picked up faster than toilet paper at Costco,” said Vincent Smith, 38, a youth intervention specialist at Crispus Attucks Community Center and one of the page’s founders.

Smith, a 2002 McCaskey graduate, said he and the page’s cofounders — Josh Hunter, the director of the Southeast Boys and Girls Club, and Zhane Miller, a nurse at ManorCare — wanted to support seniors who might miss out on meaningful rite-of-passage events.

“These times are uncertain, and these kids deserve to be recognized,” Smith said.

Seniors who are adopted receive gifts like T-shirts, gift baskets and gift cards.

Cherished gifts

Alex Roman, 30, a behavior specialist at Phoenix Academy who adopted Jose Rivera, a Phoenix senior, said he wants to gift something Rivera can cherish. Rivera, Roman said, was the first student he thought to adopt.

They met while Rivera was in middle school. Rivera, 17, ended up at Phoenix, an alternative school for School District of Lancaster students, because he was falling behind and not doing his work. He turned his life around thanks to mentors like Roman — who Rivera said was “like a best friend” — and his sister, Germany Figuereo.









Jose Rivera, left, and his sister, Germany Figuereo. INSANE LENS. 

Rivera, whose mother died of cancer when he was 12, was raised by Figuereo.

“I appreciate her so much, because, if I really look at it, she didn’t have to do that,” Rivera said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without her. I don’t think I would’ve finished school, to be honest.”

Figuereo, 28, dropped out of school when she was 16 to look after her family, she said. Seeing her brother graduate, she said, makes her burst with pride and reinforces the sacrifices she’s made.

Rivera plans to go to culinary school and eventually open his own restaurant.

Proud moment

Rosario-Brown, from McCaskey, also plans to study culinary arts. She’s one of four seniors her childhood friend, Azariah Polite, adopted.

On Sunday, Polite, 23, planned a photoshoot with prom dresses and cap and gowns for the students and their families.

“I had to do something for her,” Polite said, “and show her how proud I am of her.”

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