Students, staff make a difference during the holidays

Students, staff make a difference during the holidays


The holiday season often resonates the spirit of giving and doing for others among Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students and staff. Students are eager to lend a hand and take pride in supporting efforts and programs that help those in their school communities. From collecting donations for food pantries or family gift baskets to caroling at veterans’ homes and senior citizen nursing facilities, CCPS students and staff spent this holiday season focused on being the difference for others.

At the elementary school level, students collected warm items for their peers such as coats, hats and scarves and even donated money to wear their own cold weather accessories to school. Earlier this month, T.C. Martin Elementary School students and staff collected money to buy hats, gloves and scarves for children in need. On Dec. 4, students were allowed to wear their scarves and hats during the school day but had to donate $1 to the cause. With the donations, the school was able to buy several pairs of gloves, scarves and hats for the Children’s Aid Society in Waldorf.

J.P Ryon Elementary School hosted an Angel Tree Dinner on Dec. 15 for families in their school community. The event was sponsored by the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard unit, located at Joint Base Andrews and catered dinners were provided to nine Ryon families. Children who attended the dinner also received a special gift. The Charles County Public Schools Judy Center coordinated a Train Night on Dec. 10 at Ryon and more than 200 community members attended. Featured was a model train display provided by local artist John Painter and his family.

Jan Earnshaw, a fourth-grade teacher at Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School, implemented a month-long giving project in her classroom for December. Her students created kindness chains to incorporate daily random acts of kindness. Each link on their chain represented something the child could do to give back and students picked one link off their chain daily. Their ideas on giving back included writing thank you notes to Higdon Principal Kathy Morgan, sitting with an unknown classmate during lunch in order to get to know someone new, turning in a homework assignment for a classmate and helping to clean out a classmate’s desk. Each day, the student’s journal about their random act of kindness. The children will continue their project until the Christmas holiday and also have chains at home to focus on giving back when they are not in school.

Several middle schools hosted holiday shopping events for students so they could buy gifts for family members. Rather than collecting money, schools had items for sale that students could purchase using their respective character cash or positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) program rewards. General Smallwood Middle School hosted a Bulldog Holiday Market for three days in which students could use their PBIS bulldog bucks to shop for their families. Items for sale were donated by staff, and students were able to wrap their gifts at school. Benjamin Stoddert and Mattawoman middle schools hosted similar events in which students could use their character cash to buy gifts and pay to have them wrapped at school.

Smallwood also featured not one but two “giving” trees in their main office. Their holiday tree featured hats, gloves, mittens and scarves for families in need in the school community. Items were donated by both students and staff and the pupil personnel worker provided items to families who would benefit from the support. School staff also incorporated an angel tree into their giving activities. The tree was decorated with numbered ornaments that represented a child in need from the Smallwood school community. Staff could pick an ornament and anonymously purchase an item for a student. Smallwood staff also worked with several of their community partners to coordinate holiday food baskets for families. During the Thanksgiving holiday, the school helped to secure 27 food baskets for families in need.

Giving is year round at CCPS schools. At Thanksgiving, some Thomas Stone High School students and staff spent their holiday supporting the community. Galazio Restaurant in La Plata opened its doors on Thanksgiving to anyone in the community interested in dining at their establishment. The restaurant owners provided free meals to all diners and volunteers worked in two-hour shifts to support the event such as serving meals, helping in the kitchen, bussing dishes and cleaning tables. Students involved in Stone’s National Honor Society and W.E.B. DuBois Honor Society participated. Ava Morton, the college and career advisor at Stone, helped to coordinate the school’s participation.

Singers from La Plata High School took part in Chick-fil-A’s Community Caroling event on Dec. 11. The goal of their participation was to promote awareness and raise funds for two charities they selected to support this school year – suicide prevention and the ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Association. Members of the school chorus also sang at the tree lighting ceremony held Dec. 9 at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center. Westlake High School students recently joined an elementary school student’s effort to keep children and their families warm this winter. Westlake’s track team partnered with school staff to collect socks and donated more than 75 pairs. The newly formed Westlake Improv Troupe also performed over the weekend at the Waldorf West Library.

Throughout the school year, CCPS students and staff organize donation drives to benefit different communities and organizations. Schools often participate in donation events annually, and the goal is always the same – to provide support, assistance and be the difference to those in need.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,300 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD. 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.

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