School, community help make students’ holidays bright
The holidays can be tough when money is tight, so Constitution Elementary School, local businesses, organizations and community members have come together to spread cheer to students and their families for many years.
Constitution Elementary is a high-poverty Title I school in the Deer Valley School District that is also an A+ School of Excellence and a Solution Tree PLC Model School, said Constitution Elementary School Principal Cheyana Leiva.
Ninety percent of Constitution elementary students receive free- or reduced-price lunch, which means a family of four earns less than $25,000 a year.
“We are also in a high-income district, so we can get overlooked,” Principal Leiva said.
For many years, a Santa has come to Constitution Elementary and other schools in the Valley of the Sun.
“He takes a picture with every pre-K through second-grade student, and they are able to pick out a toy,” Principal Leiva said.
When Leiva became the principal of the school six years ago, she wanted to figure out how to support third- through sixth-grade students and other high-need families during the holidays and reached out to various community organizations to donate.
“This led us to have about 200 students adopted and receive presents at Christmas (including siblings not at our school),” Principal Leiva said.
“Local churches, Albertson’s, and local businesses have adopted students, along with the friends and families of Constitution employees,” Principal Leiva said.
This year, the school was running short of help for 40 students.
“I put a picture of our students and asked for friends/family support, and we were flooded with requests to adopt kids from friends and district employees,” Principal Leiva said. “I have friends I went to high school with years ago adopt kids. A friend shared my post, and we even had a local office adopt a family.”
Along with helping high-needs students and their families, “we provide a board game or sports ball – basketball, football, etc. – to every third- through sixth-grade student,” Principal Leiva said.
“We have reached out to our district schools, and they provided balls and board games and over 200 coats. Sunset Ridge, Sonoran Foothills, Norterra Canyon, Terramar, Las Brisas schools in Deer Valley Unified School District all supported our kids!” Principal Leiva said.
“The local fire department and police department have even pitched in. Again, posts on Facebook led to many more friends and family members donating balls/games to our school,” Principal Leiva said.
For the past two years Constitution Elementary was lucky enough to partner with Parties for Purpose’s Julie Read and Jamila Watson.
“They have provided a party for our third- through sixth- grade students with crafts, games, and even a DJ,” Principal Leiva said. “They partnered with Phoenix Police Department and Phoenix Fire Department to help students choose their game/ball. They even danced with the kids and played football.”
Volunteers from Cool Events, Sandra Day O’Connor High School, and Strive Dreams helped out at the events and did face painting for the students.
“This is a great way to build positive relationships in our community,” Principal Leiva said.
“We are thankful that, thanks to community support, have been able to provide a gift to each of our 700 students for the last six years,” Principal Leiva said. “In addition, thanks to the support, we have adopted over 1000 students and families for Christmas.“
Slideshow: Making the Holidays bright at Constitution Elementary Photos courtesy of Constitution Elementary School