"I love seeing the high school kids toting bags of gifts, bicycles, and so on, to the Red Cross collection area, and I love how attached they get to the children whose letters touch them," Kay Lanceley, a twelfth-grade English teacher at Courtland High School told Education World.
As sponsor for the Student Cooperative Association, Lanceley helps students participate in an annual American Red Cross holiday project called "Letters to Santa." The Spotsylvania, Virginia, school has been involved in the program for many years.
"Students volunteer to chair the project, and offer clubs, classes, and individuals the opportunity to adopt a child for Christmas," explained Lanceley. "After sending out an initial flyer, we record on a chart the name of each group that signs up, the sponsor, how many children are wanted, and if there are any special requests. (Some groups might want to adopt a specific age or gender.)"
Students generate a follow-up e-mail to staff members to remind them when the project deadline is near. Students and sponsors from the various groups receive the children's letters to Santa, collect money or gifts, and then shop, wrap, and label the gifts for the kids. The packages are brought to school, and the SCA members deliver the items to the Red Cross. Last year, school clubs adopted 30 youngsters! Although students do not have contact with the actual recipients of their gifts -- Santa receives the credit -- they have been delighted and excited to be a part of the event, according to Lanceley.
"One year, when we went out to choose our children, the Red Cross volunteer who helps us shared a story of a young woman who had also come out to adopt a child," Lanceley recalled. "When asked how she heard about the project, she said she had participated when she was at our school and wanted to continue to provide for a child."
That anecdote gave Lanceley further evidence that the experience her students gain through the holiday project is long lasting. She finds that her students enjoy the feeling of contributing to another's happiness and develop a growing sense of social responsibility.
"If Letters to Santa is done as an all-school project, it is important to allow a couple of days between the date the bags are due to be brought to school and the date they must be delivered to the Red Cross," advises Lanceley. "Occasionally, someone won't follow through on the project, and you might have to cover a child or contact the Red Cross."
Students at Courtland High School don't serve the community in just one way or at one time of year, however. The SCA takes part in an annual shoe fund project for the Salvation Army too!
Article by Cara Bafile
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