FAIRFIELD — The arrival of the coronavirus and the quarantine that followed has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Fairfield and Maharishi School seniors.
They did not envision the final months of their high school careers to be spent separated from their friends and teachers, unable to participate in the extracurricular activities they had worked so hard on over the years. A couple of Fairfield residents wanted to do something to lift their spirits, to remind them that the community cared for them.
Malinda Barnes and Josie Hannes hatched a plan to feature every graduating senior from both schools on a series of banners in downtown Fairfield. The two fundraised $7,300 from over 70 businesses and individuals to pay for double-sided heavy vinyl banners showing two students each, one on the top and another on the bottom, with the same two students repeated on the opposite side.
One hundred and twenty FHS seniors and 15 Maharishi School seniors are featured in all. The banners were put up May 21 and can be seen hanging from the newly installed light poles in and around Fairfield’s square, extending north to the Jefferson County Courthouse, along North Court Street and on East Broadway Avenue. A banner outside Green Building Supply congratulates all the graduates and lists the sponsors who made the banners possible.
The FHS students have the Trojan logo next to their picture, and Maharishi School students have that school’s tree logo next to theirs. The students are not arranged in any particular order. All of the banners contain the hashtag “#onefairfield.”
“After all, we’re one town,” Hannes said. “We wanted every senior to be put up.”
Hannes and Barnes said they’ve received great feedback from the parents, who are so happy and proud to see their children honored in this way.
“So many things had been taken away from them,” Hannes said of the seniors. “It was nice to have something like this to give to them from the community to make them feel special.”
How it all began
Barnes was the one who got the idea to showcase the seniors on banners, which she saw on Facebook was being done in another town.
“This photographer had done all the pictures herself and had created the banners,” Barnes said of this Facebook post she saw. “I thought, ‘Maybe this could offer a little closure for parents and teachers as they end the year.’”
Barnes contacted Hannes, a Fairfield photographer familiar with the students from taking senior pictures and team photos. They set up a meeting with Fairfield’s city government to ask permission to hang banners from the city’s light poles. The Fairfield City Council gave its approval.
The next order of business was to get photos of all the students, which the pair were able to receive from the respective schools. Some photos used are yearbook pictures and others are photos that parents submitted.
Raising money during a pandemic is no easy task. Barnes and Hannes said they didn’t want to focus on businesses they knew were hurting. Instead, they focused on people they were confident would donate, and especially those businesses that employed a senior.
“We did not want any parent to have to put up any money because they’re already devastated,” Hannes said. “We wanted to take the burden off them. They have already been burdened so much.”
Barnes and Hannes tried to keep the project a secret because they wanted to surprise the seniors when the banners were unveiled. Unfortunately, word got out that they were planning something, and eventually in early May, Hannes posted on Facebook their plans to honor the graduates.
Finding a place to print the banners proved to be a major challenge. After Hannes had created the banners in Photoshop, they were ready to go to the printer. However, on the very day they were due to the printer, the company called to tell them they wouldn’t be able to complete the job after all because not enough of their employees were coming to work due to coronavirus.
Hannes and Barnes found a different company to print the banners. That company doesn’t normally do the kind of double-sided printing they wanted, but made an exception for them. After Hannes explained all the trouble they’d been through to print the banners, a representative from the company personally delivered them, making a 3.5-hour trip to Fairfield.
“He was so scared that something else during the pandemic would happen, like the shipping would go on strike or something like that,” Hannes said. “He was very kind.”