It is not unusual to see Boulder Valley School District students and staff collecting canned food, clothes and toys for those who are less fortunate throughout the school year. During the holidays, however, the giving is even greater – truly exemplifying the heart of our communities and the spirit of the season.
Following Thanksgiving, student-led philanthropy was on full display at Douglass Elementary. A total of 35 students created displays and shared their favorite cause during a Kids Care Expo on November
“I’m so proud of the turnout. We had no idea what to expect. We didn’t know if we would get one or two kids with project boards. I certainly didn’t anticipate the number of great projects,” said Douglass Elementary School Principal Jon Wolfer. “I’m really proud of the kids and their ability to showcase their passions and articulate the needs of community organizations and global organizations and everything in between."
The students could choose any nonprofit they wanted. Some chose local agencies, like those that serve Boulder’s homeless. Others chose national and international efforts. The event raised not only awareness but also funds for the organizations.
“There was even a donation jar and it had more than $1,000 at the end of the night,” Wolfer shared. “We divided the donations amongst all of the charities.”
Wolfer, however, was most proud of the lesson in giving that the event provided to students.
“This just enhances our spirit of giving we are hoping to foster at Douglass,” Wolfer said. “With it coming right after Thanksgiving and going into the holidays, it is just a great message for kids to receive.”
At Meadowlark School in Erie, the lesson is the same, even if the project is a bit different. This is the second year that students, through the Gift of Giving, have helped gather gifts for families who do not have money to purchase presents during the holiday season.
“It just teaches them about caring about others, about empathy, and learning that we are better when we work together. It really ties well to our Social and Emotional work and Project-Based Learning,” explained Meadowlark School Early Childhood Community Liaison Maria Rodero.
At the school, which focuses on project-based learning, it shouldn’t be a surprise who is behind the effort.
“It is student led,” Rodero said. “The students did the posters and they’ve volunteered to help organize the packages, wrapping gifts, whatever it may be.”
The idea came to Rodero and the team at Meadowlark last fall, shortly after the school opened. They realized that some of the school’s families were struggling to get by.
“We started recognizing that we had some needs that we hadn’t anticipated and decided we would create an online system of giving, much like a giving tree or an angel tree,” Rodero said. “Struggles this time of year can sometimes be the hardest, whether it be physical health or loss of a job or emotional issues. Whatever it may be, just having that outreach is so valuable.”
This year, 100 items requested by less fortunate (anonymous) families were on the list – and nearly all of them have been purchased already.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Rodero said. “We almost filled probably 90 percent in the first three days. It was unreal how many people couldn’t wait to help.”
The staff said the recipients are extremely grateful for the community’s generosity.
“It is an amazing experience. It has been wonderful to be part of it,” Rodero said. “It is one of the most rewarding parts of the work that I do. We get to meet the needs of our families. This is huge.”