Every year, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and faith leaders face the same question:

How do I celebrate my seniors (and stay on budget)?

I mean, sure a coffee mug or a bulk crate of Ramen Noodles is a great gift and much appreciated, but is there something we can do that carries a little more hope or encouragement or celebration?

Never has this question felt more pressing than this year. There’s no question, the class of 2020 has gotten a raw deal.

Prom? Cancelled.
Senior Night? Gone.
Graduation? On . . . Zoom.

In light of everything that has been lost, it’s never felt more important to celebrate seniors (yes, with gifts!) in a way that is personal and meaningful. I feel that, too. That’s why I’ve put together a list[1] of senior gifts that can make a student feel celebrated and encourage them all year long.

1. Starting Now: A 30 Day Devotional for becoming who you want to be in College

Of course this is my first pick. I wrote this 30 day devotional (along with my friend, Gerald Fadayomi) because we believe, at a time when students may feel most lost, we want them to have something tangible to point them the right direction. Starting Now is an interactive journal that helps graduates figure out who they want to be in six few key areas: Community, Identity, Faith, Integrity, Freedom and Service. You can find Starting Now on our Parent Cue Store.

2. Before You Go by Gerald Fadayomi

A perfect read for the summer after senior year when a student is not quite gone, but thinking about what the next phase of life could look like. Find Before You Go, here.

3. A gift made BY seniors and FOR seniors

Carry117 is changing Ethiopia by providing women with a sustainable job and skill which allows them to provide for themselves and their family. These earrings, specifically are made by high school seniors who have aged out of the orphanage system but haven’t finished high school yet. Proceeds provide for the girls so that they can finish high school and get on with changing the world.

4. Words to take with them

Words always matter, but they matter more when we are in uncertain situations. Ask family members, coaches, teachers and mentors to write a short note of encouragement to your seniors and put them in a beautiful box to take with them into the next phase of life.

And since sometimes the budget is a big flat zero, here are a few COMPLETELY FREE ideas for great senior gifts.

5. A team to cheer them on!

Research shows a key indicator of success for young people is the number of mentors and trusted adults in their lives. Why not give your graduate the gift of a team? Ask them to choose five adults who they trust to encourage them, cheer for them and advise them for the first semester after high school. Those adults can sign up at OnMyTeam.org. You can even print out these FREE POSTCARDS to make the ask! FREE Devotionals for College Orientation:

6. FREE devotionals for college orientation:

College orientation is supposed to be exciting, hopeful and fun, but for many graduates it can be an apprehensive time with too many unknowns. As seniors go off for their first college experience, it can be helpful to give them words to anchor them. That’s why we wrote devos just for college orientation. If you want to be fancy, have them printed and put them in a nice envelope along with a Starbucks gift card or their favorite snack.

[1] This list is completely and totally biased and represents what I want for the small group of seniors I’m currently leading. It is not an exhaustive list (but who wants to read that much anyway?)