Every year Coronado and Franklin high schools set aside their competitive spirit, coming together to collect toys, blankets and clothing items for an EPISD elementary school.
Student council members from both schools started the Holiday Blessings Drive four years ago at Zavala Elementary, picking a different school each year to visit. This year the students gathered items for the 310 students at Hawkins Elementary School.
“This is a great project because it brings the schools together for a big and challenging project. It’s a good growth experience,” said Coronado student activities manager Kelly Groves. “They are so giving of their time, and they are so happy to do it. I could not be more proud of the kind of young people that we are producing.”
Coronado junior and StuCo president Nicole Plesant has participated in the project the last three years. She greeted each student with gusto, making sure they each took a pledge not to open the gifts until the 25th.
“It is the best feeling seeing the kids’ reactions. It’s such a heartwarming feeling. It brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “We aware that we are a blessed group of kids and this is something we can do to give back to the community and make a difference.”
The high-schoolers welcomed each grade level into the library, where stacks of boxes awaited each student.
“It’s been a really positive experience getting to help these students and bring a smile to their face,” Franklin sophomore Michael Fallon said. “I think it’s a great way to show that we care. It’s a common misconception that teens are self-centered, but it’s nice to help people that are less fortunate.”
This is the first year the sophomore participates in the event. He was impressed by the amount of planning involved in the project but above all the camaraderie between the schools.
“Coronado and Franklin came together on Saturday, and we were at the school for over six hours wrapping gifts nonstop,” he said. “No one complained. We just kept going because we all had the same goal in mind.”
Students at Hawkins said they were happy and grateful to receive the gifts.
“I felt loved because we didn’t ask for anything and the high schools kids gave so much,” said fifth-grader Rene de la Llave. “Not all schools do this, but Coronado and Franklin really made us feel special. Some people got big boxes but it doesn’t matter because they took their time to make us feel loved.”
Student Council students pick an elementary at the beginning of the school year, meeting with the principal and counselor to coordinate the project. The elementary in turn is responsible for providing students’ clothing and shoe sizes, as well as what the students have asked for on their holiday wish list.
“I’m really humbled and beyond blessed that our school was chosen for this project because now we know our kids are going to have a really great Christmas,” principal Adriana Ruiz said. “I think it’s reflective of our District that we want to help our kids beyond academics and work on their social emotional wellbeing as well.”