The COVID-19 pandemic and state lock-down have interrupted every aspect of life, including the traditions of being a high school senior. But Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha and his team want to change that.
Harsha told The Times-Gazette the week of May 11 has been designated High School Senior Recognition Week in the city of Hillsboro to congratulate the 190 members of the class of 2020 on a job well done.
The city now is looking to the business community and private individuals for donations of products and/or money to make Senior Recognition Week one that will be long remembered.
A special edition of The Times-Gazette on Friday, May 8 will recognize all of the graduating seniors from the five Highland County public school districts plus the Hillsboro Christian Academy.
Harsha is a 1994 Hillsboro High School graduate and remembers what it was like being a high school senior transitioning into adulthood.
“Senior year is important. That’s the year that everyone looks forward to,” Harsha said. “I was excited about moving forward, going away to college and being on my own — I couldn’t wait for it. And you think about what our seniors are missing out on now, the prom and senior trips, and hopefully they’ll have the graduation later on.”
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott, a 2006 Whiteoak graduate, said she couldn’t wait to embark on the next phase of her life either.
“I was ready to start college and a career, and move on,” she said. “In my senior year we had trips, activities, graduation and things to look forward to, and unfortunately this year, it’s just not the same.”
Harsha was quick to point out that the idea for Senior Recognition Week event was a collaborative effort of everyone in his administration, with ideas and suggestions coming from department heads, those that manage the office, the Highland County Chamber of Commerce and several businesses in the community.
The event is dependent upon local involvement, Harsha said, and he described that many avenues of support are available to both local businesses and private individuals, such as free items, gift or gas cards, discounts on business services, or monetary donations that would go into a fund earmarked for scholarships.
He said when the term “scholarship” is used, most people automatically think of funding for a traditional four-year institution, but Harsha also appreciates the value found in an associate’s degree or diploma programs like what is offered at Southern State Community College, and vocational and technical schools.
Harsha graduated from one back in 1996, receiving an associate’s degree in audio/video engineering from Dayton’s International College of Broadcasting, with an emphasis on music since at the time he was part of a band.
“Personally, from the Harsha Monument Company, we’ll be donating money toward that scholarship fund,” he said. “Individuals and businesses can donate to that, and we hope to make that an annual thing.”
He said the hope is that instead of one big lump sum, there would be several scholarships awarded, with the thought that they could be used for college, vocational or technical schools, and internships.
“We’ll have to work through the details, but to me not every child is going to college directly out of high school,” Harsha said. “There are different routes they may take, and some may go directly into the work force or a trade school, and it’s my feeling they shouldn’t be excluded for a scholarship simply because they’re not going to college.”
Any monetary donations from businesses and individuals will be secured into funds for scholarships, Harsha said, with the city matching 100 percent up to $1,000, and details forthcoming as to how members of the senior class can apply for them.
“I hope the community really gets behind this,” Harsha said. “I know for a fact the city of Hillsboro and all of its citizens are very generous when it comes to these things, and I can’t think of a better place I’d want to live.”
For information on how businesses or individuals can participate in the event, contact the city of Hillsboro at 937-393-5219.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.