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Early College students share holiday spirit with preschoolers

Union County Early College junior Baylee Ashburner, 16, spends some quality time with a pre-k student from Walter Bickett Education Center during a recent holiday celebration. (Below, Santa, provided courtesy of Early College student Andrew Piercy, greets young students. Early College Principal Jane Wade takes a moment to greet students).

It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the big kids or the little ones. But one thing was for certain, from all the smiles and happy faces, the seventh annual Angel

Tree event at Union County Early College (UCEC) was a major hit again this year.
More than 200 preschool students from Walter Bickett Education Center were guests of more than 340 Union County Early College (UCEC) students earlier this month.

They were first treated to a puppet show and songs provided by the UCEC students. They were then treated to a visit with Santa (provided courtesy of Early College student Andrew Piercy, 16, a sophomore).

Each preschool child was then given a bag of goodies, which included a gift hand-picked for that student by the school’s Student Government Association (SGA).

The annual holiday event takes about a year of preparation. Each preschool child’s name is placed on the school’s angel tree and then Early College students purchase gifts for the students with their own money.

“It’s part of our SGA community outreach and it gives our students the opportunity to give back,” said Early College Principal Jane Wade. “My students get excited about this. I think it’s a really valuable experience. It gives them the opportunity to reach out and help these children.”

Early College teacher Karen Pharr (the Early College SGA sponsor) and Early College guidance counselor Jes McFadden coordinate the event. SGA students, with the assistance of the school’s DIY (Do It Yourself) Club, decorate more than 200 large gift bags in which presents and goodies are placed.

Pharr said the biggest challenge is to make sure all the children get a present and that no one is left out. “We triple check to make sure every child has a toy, because that would be our worst nightmare that someone would be over looked. So we double check and then we check again.”

“The Early College students love it,” Pharr added. “They get an angel (a student’s name) and then they go shopping. The pre-k students are given six choices of what they may have for Christmas. Then our students go out and buy them one of those gifts, usually a $10 toy.”

Any UCEC student who cannot afford to buy a gift is allowed to decorate Christmas bags in which the toys are placed. The SGA also holds fundraisers so that students can add mittens, gloves, a book and crayons to those gift bags.

SGA president Katherine Mazzucco, 17, a senior at Early College, said the most rewarding part of this annual event is the unity it brings to all the UCEC students.

“It’s different than at other schools because we get every student together in one spot and do a charity event,” she said. “It helps out the community. I think it also sets a good example for the small children, showing them that you can get involved as a teenager. It gives them the opportunity to see what they can accomplish in their future.”

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Walter Bickett Education Center Principal Fo Roldan. “It’s amazing what these Early College students do. It’s so well organized. They take their time to get the students’ names and even their sizes. It’s not all about toys.”

Roldan said this celebration will be the only holiday gifts given to some of his students. “And I would say that this will be the biggest Christmas for about 70 percent of these students,” he added.

Mazzucco said this fact is a real eye-opener for most of the UCEC students. “It makes you really appreciate what you have and it makes you work harder. That’s the foundation of our school.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Dec 20, 2012 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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