How students give back to their communities for holidays - AZEdNews
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How students give back to their communities for holidays


Higley Unified’s Williams Field High School Donated Christmas Gifts Including New Clothes And Toys To Families In Need Through The Salvation Army Angel Tree Program, Fulfilling The Wishes Of 135 Children Ranging From Newborns To 16-year-olds This Year. Photo Courtesy Higley Unified School District

Whether taking part in online learning, hybrid instruction or in-person classes, students found ways to give back, share kindness and care for those deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic hardships this holiday season.

Here are some of the ways students, teachers and their schools found to give back to their communities during the holidays.

In Yuma Elementary School District One, C.W. McGraw Elementary School‘s student council began a district-wide “Bring Cheer Campaign” asking all students to create a digital or hand-written holiday card to be shared with those in Yuma isolated by COVID-19. 

The cards were included in 150 shoe boxes of supplies to be delivered to Crossroads Mission,  40 people receiving a dinner from the Yuma Heritage Library and about 200 assisted living home residents in Yuma.

McGraw’s Bring Cheer Campaign

Higley Unified’s Williams Field High School donated Christmas gifts including new clothes and toys to families in need through the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, fulfilling the wishes of 135 children ranging from newborns to 16-year-olds this year.

Originally, Williams Field Student Council began the program. However, it has grown today to where clubs, sports, certified staff, administration and classrooms participate. 

Student body president Zoe Knoeczny participates in the program and believes it helps the Williams Field school culture. 

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Higley Unified’s Williams Field High School donated Christmas gifts including new clothes and toys to families in need through the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, fulfilling the wishes of 135 children ranging from newborns to 16-year-olds this year. Photo courtesy Higley Unified School District

“It promotes giving to other people and spreading kindness,” said Knoeczny. “I think a lot of people enjoy it. It’s a really great way to get everyone in the school involved in something and give back to our community.”

Roosevelt School District No. 66 worked with local food banks to ensure community members have meals so students can stay healthy and focus on learning.

“It’s very helpful. We’re thankful for everything that got donated to the school,” one student’s parent said.

Roosevelt School District Taking Care of Our Community – Dec. 2020 Board Recognition

RSD Taking Care of our Community – December 2020 Board Recognition from Roosevelt School District No. 66 on Vimeo.

For the past 15 years, Mesa Public Schools’ Stapley Junior High School has enjoyed a heartwarming community tradition. An annual Toys for Tots drive led by Physical Education Teacher Dana Dobson and student council members has raised more than $100,000 to make sure Arizona children have a happier holiday.

“The purpose of our toy drive is to make the holidays brighter for disadvantaged Arizona children,” Dobson said.  

This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school hosted a virtual version of the fundraiser in November so students could continue their legacy of service learning.

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Teacher Dana Dobson dons his Santa hat and checks his list twice, to ensure donations are in order. Photo courtesy Mesa Public Schools

Homeroom classes coordinated efforts where students competed for daily and overall prizes. The friendly, spirited drive garnered astounding results that included monetary donations, toys, and gift cards. Collectively, students raised more than $5,600 to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children and Sunshine Acres Children’s Home.

Principal James Fisher shares that he is thankful to the students, staff and community for all their donations.

“This year’s Toys for Tots was a complete success,” Fisher said. “Without the community’s hard work, this would not be possible. Our school was able to help so many children this holiday season.”

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Stapley Junior High Students participate in the 15 year tradition of giving back to the community. Photo courtesy Mesa Public Schools

Dobson shares that the past five years the school has focused on donating more locally, with Sunshine Acres Children’s Home as their main charity. Sunshine Acres provides a safe home for children who are separated from their parents and helps them establish long-term relationships with stable parental figures, preparing them for success in adult life.

“This year the bulk of donations will go to Sunshine Acres and every child at the home will receive a substantial gift from Stapley Junior High,” Dobson said.
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Stapley Junior High School students serve as Santa’s helpers for children in need. Photo courtesy Mesa Public Schools

In addition, Arizona K12 Center shared some ideas on safe and affordable ways to relax and recharge during winter break.

Arizona high school alumni also found ways to give back to the community that helped shape them.

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A donation from Tucson High Magnet School graduate Levi Wallace to Tucson Unified School District’s African American Student Services Department provided for meals and gift cards for Tucson Unified families during the holidays. Photo courtesy of Tucson Unified School District

Tucson High Magnet School alumni Levi Wallace, a starting cornerback for the Buffalo Bills, made a donation to Tucson Unified School District’s African American Student Services.

Wallace’s donation provided for 100 food boxes and Wal-Mart gift cards and 460 spiral hams for Tucson Unified families during the holidays.

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A volunteer loads up meals provided by Tucson High Magnet School graduate Levi Wallace to district families. Photo courtesy of Tucson Unified School District

“He is a great example of giving back to his community,” said Jimmy Hart, director of African American Student Services at Tucson Unified.

“Although he no longer lives in Tucson, he continually stays connected to TUSD and has served as a speaker for our African American Student Services department over the past 5 years<” Hart said.

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A note to let families know who donated meals and gift cards to them. Photo courtesy of Tucson Unified School District

“He is the type of person that will respond to a text or phone call regardless of how busy he is with the Buffalo Bills,” Hart said.

Tucson Unified School District thanked Wallace for his generous donation to students families.

Glendale Elementary School District employees and community donors made holiday memories for 200 GESD kids from 51 families. This was the largest ever reach achieved for the annual GESD Adopt-a-Kid campaign. Donors from the Glendale community included Bears & More, Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV), the Glendale Fire Department, Kiwanis Club of Glendale, and the PURE Youth Arizona Chapter.

GESD’s Adopt-a-Kid campaign helps to ensure families celebrate the holidays with gifts and necessities. The children were recommended by GESD’s Family Advocates, Refugee Family Services, McKinney-Vento Program, and Social Workers. Families were invited to a curbside pick up of the gifts at the GESD district office before the winter break.
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GESD Executive Assistant to the Superintendent Elizabeth Powell, GESD Family Services Advocate Deogratias Baransaka, GESD Family Liaison Facilitator Elizabeth Rivera and two GESD parents. Photo courtesy of Glendale Elementary School

An Adopt a Family Christmas program organized by Queen Creek Family Resource Center, part of the Queen Creek Unified School District, brightened the holidays for hundreds of East Valley families with assistance from outside organizations which donated gifts for the families including toys and bikes.

Queen Creek Unified staff and students also contributed to the toy drive and Queen Creek Junior High School adopted five families for the holidays.

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An Adopt a Family Christmas program organized by Queen Creek Family Resource Center brightened the holidays for hundreds of East Valley families with assistance from students, staff and outside organizations. Photo courtesy Queen Creek Unified School District