FLUSHING — As COVID-19 mitigation measures continue into the summer, many high school seniors are facing a tough reality that they won’t have the chance to walk in a commencement ceremony.
But one Flushing resident is working to ensure that the Flushing High School Senior Class of 2020 gets the graduation tribute it deserves.
Heather Wheeler, a lifelong member of the Flushing community, has organized the “You Are My Sunshine” fundraiser to give every 2020 FHS senior a special class sign for graduation. Each sign will display a student’s name and their senior picture.
“Me and my group are working to have signs made for all of our 341 seniors and place them around Flushing High School on the weekend when (the students) were supposed to walk for graduation (May 31),” Wheeler said. “Each senior will then receive their sign the following weekend.”
Additionally, the fundraiser is aimed at raising money for the construction of a large metal tree sculpture, which will feature leaves engraved with the name of every 2020 Flushing senior.
“Our idea is to display the tree downtown in Cornwell Park over the summer,” Wheeler said. “We’re then hoping to have the sculpture installed in front of the high school in the fall and hold a special tribute ceremony.”
In just over a week since it began, the fundraiser has already surpassed its $7,000 goal. Wheeler said that funds for each sign have been covered and that the remaining money will be used to commission the sculpture.
Prior to publicizing the fundraiser, Wheeler got permission from the Department of Public Works (DPW) to have the sculpture erected in downtown Flushing. She has also communicated regularly with FHS Principal Jason Melynchek to design a plan for placing the signs around the high school.
Wheeler, a 1992 FHS graduate, said that the fundraiser is named “You Are My Sunshine” because she wants to brighten the lives of seniors as they enter the next phase of their education. She also plans to supply each student with a sunflower after they graduate as a token of the community’s appreciation.
“I just hope that this gives them a little bit of light and lets them know that we love and support them,” Wheeler said. “We all feel for them and what they had to sacrifice with COVID-19 and the quarantine.”
Donations to Wheeler’s project can be made at the “You Are My Sunshine Flushing High School Class of 2020” fundraiser on Facebook. To have your child’s senior picture included on a class sign, send it to Sunshine2020.firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday and include their first and last name in the subject line.