The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 26, 2013

Christmas is a season for giving and learning

For the Star Beacon

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — With the holiday season in full swing, students and faculty at Lakeside High School are experiencing the benefits of giving. The numerous charity organizations at work account for endless amounts of items donated to those in need. Whether they be nationally recognized or originally conceived, these programs succeed in not only helping those in need, but also granting students the ability to contribute selflessly.

One of the most prominent means of giving is through the HALO project, run by Catholic Charities, and carried out by Spanish teacher, Joyce Hignite. This program involves taking on needy families and granting them what they require most this winter.

Hignite, who has been providing this charity for more than 15 years, said, “I wanted to help some of the needy families who didn’t have enough for their children at Christmastime.”

She primarily selects Hispanic families to assist because she knows she will be able to communicate with them efficiently where others may not. She then distributes the information to her classes, and they choose what to donate. Hignite receives gift cards, money, food, clothing and toys from her students, as well as numerous volunteers to deliver the packages. Hignite said that the families are extremely grateful for the charity from herself and her students.

“We usually receive thank-you cards, but this year, a woman even baked us a cake,” Hignite said.

Another outstanding charitable program at Lakeside is the annual holiday craft fair put on by Teresa Stopek and Ramona Kendzerski. This is the seventh year that their Functional Life Skills students sell a diverse amount of items, including scarves, ornaments and trinkets, which they receive from several places around the community, including parents and churches. The students also bake all of the cookies for sale, which anyone can sample, and order by the dozens.

“We wanted to start something new and fun for the students to do each year,” said Stopek.

The students get a percentage of the proceeds, while learning valuable lessons, such as community service, social interactions and money skills. The special handmade items not only make wonderful gifts for the holiday, but also go toward a meaningful cause.

Just because you are giving doesn’t mean you can’t receive something in return. Student Leadership has begun a competition to boost morale among the students. By donating to several charities, classes are granted the opportunity to receive a prize for the valiant efforts. The teachers whose pupils bring in the most items receive a free breakfast party. There are numerous organizations that the school community can choose from: Coats for Kids, a program that accepts gently used coats for all ages; Toys for Tots, a renowned charity that receives new, unwrapped toys for children; Rainbow Baby and Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a hospital in Cleveland that is accepting parent supplies for needy newborns; and the Food Pantry, a local group that requires can goods and other non-perishable food items. This healthy dose of competition does not only succeed in generating school spirit, but also achieves generosity amongst the student body.

Lakeside High School has proved that the holiday season does not have to only consist of receiving. The countless charitable events at work within the school promote an environment full of generosity and kindness. The students at Lakeside are definitely not on Santa’s naughty list this year!