With a Cheerful HeartNov 30, 2018 ● By Allie Spletter
FISD students and teachers collaborate each year during the holiday season to reach out to those in need, looking to both brighten spirits and help in any way possible. Whether it is on their own accord or they are encouraged by teachers and sponsors, students can learn the importance and value of selflessness, cultivating a giving spirit and the joy of helping others during such a special time of year. “Giving back is about helping young people connect to something more than themselves and helping them realize their actions tether them to something bigger,” says Dr. Stephanie Cook, the managing director of guidance and counseling for the FISD. “It is an essential part of adolescent development to believe your existence and role in the world matters and makes an impact to those around you,” she adds.
Student groups across the district, from elementary to high school, set out, yearly, to do their part in positively impacting others and making someone else’s holiday season special.
Students at Purefoy Elementary take part in the Make-A-Wish Believe campaign. Purefoy Elementary counselor Tiffany Ragland explains, “The Make-A-Wish Believe campaign is a partnership with Macy’s® and the foundation. A former Purefoy parent is the director of medical outreach and shared this opportunity with me about three years ago. We have our students write well-wish letters and then we deliver them to Macy’s on their Believe Day. For each letter submitted, Make-A-Wish donates $2. Our letters earn around $1,200 each year. We have had two Purefoy families that have been on the receiving end of having a wish granted.”
Purefoy students, grades kindergarten through fifth, participate in writing letters as they are taught the importance of compassion and empathy through kind gestures. “We share a short video about Make-A-Wish and have conversations of understanding and empathy for children who are sick. By writing a well-wish letter, they are putting compassion into action. Their sincere thoughts and time to write the letter makes an impact for someone else. Our students get excited and often ask to write more than one letter and even bring letters from home from siblings and parents. The thoughtfulness of the well-wishes truly reflects the student understanding of compassion,” Ms. Ragland says.
Teachers have an amazing opportunity to share social and emotional learning with students through community projects that teach the importance of giving back … and seeing the results. Purefoy fifth-grader Kaydin Jo Hughes’ family was blessed by the Make-A-Wish foundation, and she is proud to be able to help others. “It makes me feel happy that my letter is helping someone else. My brother, Grayson, was granted a wish to go to Hawaii. It allowed my family to all be together. I appreciated getting to be a part of it,” she says.
“It is one thing to talk about it, but it takes it to a deeper level when students actively participate. We are teaching our students the importance of character strengths such as gratitude, social IQ, compassion and optimism. Teachers and counselors teach, model and recognize the strengths daily. Often, for children, the holiday season can bring on the sense of ‘I want,’ and participation in service projects during this time changes their thought process to ‘what can I do and what I want to do for others,’ which is the reward I most hope for their future hearts of giving,” Ms. Ragland shares.
The Boals Elementary motto this year is “Where Kindness Begins with Me.” The student council wanted to show kindness to others during the holiday season, so students decided to make cards for children who are in the hospital during the holidays. Recently, during a student council meeting, fourth and fifth-grade students decorated cards for children.
Boals Elementary counselor Melissa Isler says, “It is important for our children to learn about compassion for others. This is a way for students to show they care for others and a way they can share this with our community. We want students to have a lifelong love for helping others. We already participate in the Frisco Family Services (FFS) food drive and Angel Tree donations during the holidays. We wanted to find another way for students to give back to the community. Our teachers encourage students to think about others and spread kindness.”
Fifth-grader Anushka Ramchandani says, “I want to spread a positive impact within the school and community,” and fifth-grader Hudson Hernandez says, “It is important for me to set a good example and show kindness to others.”
Students at Clark Middle School work hard to change the lives of many Frisco residents through service with FFS during the holiday season. Clark Middle School counselor Julie Northam explains, “FFS is a nonprofit organization that has been helping members of our community for 24 years who face hunger, homelessness and other urgent needs. We decided to reach out to FFS about participating in a donation service project because we know our neighbors, students and families have benefited greatly from their assistance over the years.”
During October, Clark students participated in SOCKtober, and, this month, students and staff members are serving with the organization’s “Fill the Stockings” service project. “We reached out to FFS about ways we could be more involved with the community this year and they gave us information on different ways we could help — one being the FFS Holiday Store Program,” counselor Talia Hegmann says. As a campus, Clark Middle School pledged to fill 30 stockings this year. The stockings are donated by the Frisco Quilt Guild and are filled with donations brought in by students and staff. Stockings are filled with goodies such as candy, toothbrushes, toothpaste, ChapStick®, coloring books, stickers and games for a child, teen or senior. “Our National Junior Honor Society, student council and student ambassadors are helping fill stockings during Cougar Den time and are making announcements during lunch to encourage student participation,” Ms. Hegmann says.
Clark Middle School eighth-grader Carolyn Love says it is humbling to be able to give to others and that service projects like these allow students to learn more about having a giving spirit. “It is important because most kids grow up with families that provide all of their needs such as food, clothing and shelter. It is important for kids to learn to be grateful and not take things for granted because there are kids in the world that do not have these things,” she says.
Frisco High School volleyball teams are doing their part this holiday season by helping a local organization provide food for children and families throughout the community. Frisco High School freshman, junior varsity and varsity volleyball teams have worked together to help provide Frisco-based Lovepacs with food for children and families over the Christmas break.
Lovepacs serves children on free and reduced lunch programs in area schools and provides food for children and families primarily during extended school breaks. While the varsity volleyball team volunteered to help pack food for families during Thanksgiving break, the freshman and junior varsity teams collected food donations at Market Street earlier this fall in order to donate to Lovepacs so the organization can distribute food to kids for Christmas break.
Frisco High School Varsity volleyball team member Madi Speight says the work was all worth it, knowing they helped others. “Participating in Lovepacs was not only a time for the volleyball team to grow closer, but a time to do things for others in our community who are less fortunate than we are. Even though it was hard work, the feeling after made it all worth it.”
Frisco High Volleyball coach Tamara Keller says service is part of the campus culture at Frisco High School, and students take pride in their community and helping others in need. “It creates awareness for students who do not realize the struggles for others. Holidays are a special time of year for family and community, so it is not only a rewarding experience for us as coaches to witness, but also for the girls to be a part of something that gives back to their district.” Coach Amanda Warner says the volleyball teams wanted to be able to help students in the FISD, and Lovepacs was the perfect way to do so. “It is important for the girls to give back to others because it teaches them to be grateful for what has been given to them. We teach our athletes to not only be role models in the school, but in our community, as well. It is important that we know every child in the FISD has food during holiday breaks.” Coach Warner encourages the community to also get involved with Lovepacs.
Though Frisco might be a largely-affluent community, there are still many families that work hard to make ends meet during the holiday season. The giving spirits of FISD students and staff members help make the holiday season brighter. Their contribution of time and resources translate into valuable life experiences that will stay with them for years to come.