‘Tis the season for gifts.
Students at many Keller schools are learning the value of giving while brightening the holiday season for others. From coat and food drives to pet supply and toy drives, campuses across the district encouraged kids and families to think of others.
A group of students, parents and teachers from Hidden Lakes Elementary visited Legacy at Bear Creek Dec. 14 to sing holiday songs with senior citizens and give lap blankets to residents in the memory care unit.
Teacher Delia Rich said students began making the hand-tied fleece blankets in November and take them to residents at assisted living centers each year.
Dimes for Stars
At Parkview Elementary School, students “robbed their piggy banks” to give “Dimes for Stars” to help less fortunate classmates have gifts for Christmas, school counselor Monique Barnett said.
Students, parents and staff members raised more than $1,000 and adopted from the “Star Tree” to help 26 anonymous kids at the campus. For every dime students donated, they could put a small yellow construction paper star on their classroom door (often overflowing onto the adjacent wall). They could get a larger star for $1, but 90 percent of the donations came in 10 cent increments.
Fourth-grader Isabelle Hurst, 10, gave money from her allowance and from her mom.
“Some kids feel like they don’t belong because their families can’t afford presents,” Isabelle said. “We hope we’re making them feel good by giving them a merry Christmas.”
Barnett said donated funds would be used to buy two outfits, a pair of shoes and a toy for each child.
Since many of the families at the school qualify for free or reduced cost lunches, it was important to make giving doable with pocket change, she said. For the Star Tree, items were divided up so someone could purchase a single item rather than the child’s whole list.
Seth Elkins, 10, said, “It was mostly about helping. It feels good to help others.”
Barnett said, “I think that’s critical to instill that, and you have to start young. It’s not all about you.”
Helping homesick Marines
Students in the AVID programs at five KISD campuses collected care package items for Marines stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, helps students develop study and life skills to be successful in college. Students at Keller Middle, Fossil Hill Middle, Central High, Keller High and Timber Creek High schools collected 70 boxes of snacks, games and health and hygiene items.
Keller Middle School seventh-grader Autumn Darden said she contributed items because she wanted to thank the Marine for his service.
“I felt really bad because he couldn’t come home for Christmas,” said Autumn, who has a cousin in the Air Force also deployed during the holidays.
KMS students wrote letters to one particular Marine assigned to them and are hoping to hear back from him in the new year.
Ariyan Ashrafian, 12, said, “I think sending letters and giving them supplies and food makes them less homesick.”
Blaire Beaty-Hancock, former KISD AVID coordinator who now works as program manager of professional learning for the national AVID office, said she reached out to the schools when she heard from a friend whose son is one of the Marines that they had few care packages because of the expense to ship items to Japan.
They originally started with just nine soldiers, but after students collected 70 boxes of items, Beaty-Hancock’s friend was able to find 70 Marines stationed there who would benefit from care packages.
They sought donations from family and friends for the $1,100 cost to ship all the boxes.
KMS AVID teacher Rhonda Tharpe said, “One of our goals in AVID is to help students develop the habit of giving and see that it has intrinsic rewards.”