News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Banners will honor SHS seniors

Sisters parent Jamie Vohs had witnessed a full semester plagued by COVID-19-related challenges. It had been a brutal test of endurance for schools as well as her freshman- and senior-class student athletes at home.

By mid-January, Vohs was feeling utterly compelled to help infuse the beleaguered school year with some much needed cheer. But how?

Vohs was at a Grad Night Committee meeting when her “aha!” moment came — during a discussion about last year’s Class of 2020 Street Banner Project. Led by the local nonprofit Citizens4Community, the project had seen some 100 banners—each featuring a different graduating senior — displayed festively on lampposts throughout downtown Sisters. Vohs said the Grad Night team lauded the project for the special way it had honored the seniors.

“I have a senior and so I’ve seen the effects of what this past year has done to him and others,” Vohs said. “I felt continuing the banner project was one way we could come together as a whole community again to support local students.”

Vohs reached out to Citizens4Community. Meanwhile, SHS Yearbook Advisor Susie Seaney — who played a critical role in producing the 2020 senior banners — was contacting C4C to re-enlist for the project.

Vohs, Seaney and C4C team members put their collaborative heads together. Fast forward; and on Wednesday, April 14, the SHS Class of 2021 Banner team officially launched its online GoFundMe campaign. Their goal is to raise spirits while raising the $1,350 still needed for the banners.

Vohs and Seaney recognize the project is not a cure-all for what has been a difficult school year. Nevertheless, they see it as one of many ways to unite residents and show that—no matter what comes—Sisters’ kids are supported.

“The seniors this year have had a rough go of it,” Seaney said. “So parents are excited (about the project), and I hope the seniors and their families feel that little extra love from their community.”

She said that with the entire community supporting it, the project also teaches an important lesson: “That as long as we take care of ourselves and each other, it’ll make the world a better place.”

Vohs agreed, adding: “I hope seeing all the banners on display inspires the thought: ‘You did it! You made it through a pandemic and really tough times.’ And I hope the project highlights the importance of that kind of perseverance. It’s something the seniors can take into the next chapter of their lives.”

The Class of 2021 banners will make their debut in mid-May, hanging first in the high school as a way to honor and celebrate the senior class on campus. Then, at the end of May—as graduation week nears—the City of Sisters Public Works crew will collect the banners and hang them from lampposts throughout downtown Sisters.

Like last year, each 2-by-3-foot banner will feature a prominent photo of a senior plus his or her first name. After graduation, the banners will come down and students will be able to pick them up to have as keepsakes and gifts from the community.

Olivia Bertagna—a former C4C youth board member who helped originate the banner project during her junior year—will now, fittingly, take home a senior banner of her own.

Many of the photos residents will see on the banners are the handiwork of volunteer Carla Mandal.

“Carla spent two loooong days photographing our seniors all over the SHS property, asking nothing in return,” Seaney said. “She was cheerful, fun, and worked hard to put the kids at ease and make sure they got pictures they would be happy with.”

Sisters Rodeo has again assisted the project by donating the downtown lamppost space where its own banners would normally hang during late May and early June.

“The City’s help hanging the banners and the generosity of the Rodeo are huge factors in our ability to continue the banner project,” said C4C Board Member Amy Burgstahler. “I hope folks offer a nice shoutout and big ‘thumbs up’ the next time they see a public works or rodeo association team member.”

Seaney added that the project is again getting “above and beyond” help from last year’s banner maker Shannon Towry. Meanwhile, Black Butte Ranch, local real estate agent Tim Kizziar, and Citizens4Community have each contributed $500 toward the effort. C4C also has lent staff and volunteer support to the project and is again serving as the official charity host for the GoFundMe campaign.

C4C President Robyn Holdman noted that any and all funds raised beyond the project’s total budgeted needs of $2,850 will be wholly dedicated to funding efforts that benefit Sisters Country students.

After the success of last year’s banner project, Holdman said C4C hoped the community would signal it wants to continue seeing senior banners.

“There seem to be a lot of us on the same wavelength—wanting to come together to support local students,” she said. “C4C is taking that as a good sign the project will keep resonating with the community.”

Last year, donations ranging from $5 to hundreds of dollars quickly flowed into the 2020 campaign. C4C reached its fundraising goal within a few days, Holdman said, noting: “People seemed to really, really enjoy giving to this project.”

The vast majority of donations did not come from families of seniors, Burgstahler said, adding: “It was heartwarming seeing folks motivated simply out of community spirit.”

C4C Executive Director Linda Cline noted that C4C is co-leading the “Small Town Atmosphere” strategy in the Sisters Country Vision.

“As ‘vision-keepers’ and with our mission to create a more connected Sisters Country, we like how this project speaks to a friendly, close-knit Sisters vibe and the idea of neighbor looking out for neighbor,” she said.

The banner fundraiser can be found by searching for “Sisters High School 2021 Banner Project” at or from the link at

Donors who prefer to donate by check can mail a check to Citizens4Community, P.O. Box 2193, Sisters, OR, 97759 with “Banner Project” in the memo section. Donations are tax deductible.


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