The Shawnee Mission North community is sending its support to seniors who may be grieving the loss of “end-of-the-year” activities in a social distancing-friendly way.
After Gov. Laura Kelly’s decision to close in-person schooling for the remainder of the academic year — devastating seniors across Shawnee Mission — Tyler’s House KC founder and executive director Cori Hastings and board member Emily Bartlett began brainstorming ways to provide seniors with closure.
To comply with social distancing measures, the pair landed on a banner with heartfelt messages to seniors from the SM North community, which is now hanging outside of the tennis courts at SM North.
“We’re all about community and we didn’t want [seniors] to feel like in spite of all that’s going on in the world, that they were forgotten somehow,” Hastings said. “In order to let them know that we care, we love them, we support them, we see them and we understand the frustration — while there’s not a whole lot we can do, we can at least come together as a community and give them our love and support.”
Hastings sent emails to teachers and others in the community to request messages for seniors, and with the help of her father who formerly owned a sign company, put together the banner. Hastings hand wrote each message on the banner, which has around 80 to 90 messages and quotes, she said.
Bartlett, who is a drama therapist and the wife of a SM North drama teacher, said seniors have said they are both sad and angry, but are unsure of how to express anger toward a virus. Additionally, Bartlett said underclassmen have expressed sadness as they are not able to have a final goodbye with seniors who have impacted their lives. The banner acts as a way to remind seniors that people know this is a difficult situation.
“I just hope they feel seen and loved and supported and that, you know, maybe it can provide just a little bit of that closure that they need for the end of their four years at high school, which is really an important four years of their life,” Bartlett said.
Other ideas Hastings and Bartlett considered, including a video compiled of sent-in footage of seniors that would be streamed similarly to a drive-in movie theatre, were counted out in an effort to maintain social distancing efforts.
For those who didn’t get a chance to submit a message, a redesign of the Tyler’s House KC website will include a digital yearbook for people to write messages to students, teachers and parents.
The digital yearbook is intended for anyone, not just SM North seniors and families, to provide a sense of closure to those who are impacted by the shortened senior year, Hastings said.
Visit the digital yearbook at https://www.tylershousekc.org/ by hovering over the “News” tab and clicking on “Class of 2020 Digital Yearbook.”