SAC Staff Senate Brightens the Holiday Season for Elementary School Students
The weather outside was not exactly frightful - although it was cold and grey - but the mood in the Beacon Hill Elementary cafeteria was extremely delightful. A beautiful Christmas tree stood on the middle of a stage while holiday music blared through the room. In the back of the cafeteria, presents of all shapes and sizes were aligned on several tables.
What really added the sparkle, however, were the faces of Beacon Hill students as they walked into the cafeteria. They smiled cautiously as Laryn Nelson, the school principal, greeted them, with Santa Claus standing not too far away.
Once the students sat down, Nelson broke the good news: each student would be getting a present to take home for Christmas. At that point, it was hard not to be seized by the excitement and joy that filled the air.
The festive sight was made possible by the San Antonio College Staff Senate as part of its annual Angel Tree project.
The Senate adopted Beacon Hill, a school in the San Antonio Independent School District not far from SAC, as a partner school earlier this semester. For the Angel Tree project, the Senate collected more than 400 presents from SAC staff - even for three students who were showing up for their first day of school.
"It was a little stressful getting everything together," admitted Eric Alvarez, a certified advisor with the TRIO program who is also the Staff Senate president. She explained that the Senate has been working on this project since Thanksgiving, when SAC staff first began selecting student names for the project.
Over the last few weeks Alvarez worked closely with Susan Simpson, the parent and family liaison at Beacon Hill, to keep the list of students current. That was challenging because many students come from homeless shelters at the Salvation Army and Haven for Hope. In just the last two weeks before the Angel Tree gift delivery, Beacon Hill added 15 students from the local shelters.
To help pass out the hundreds of gifts and to make sure no child was overlooked, Staff Senate members were joined by SACMEN and other students as well as Dr. Robert Vela, president of San Antonio College, and the College Executive Team.
Magda Flores, a first-grade teacher, was thrilled with the celebration. She said some of her students knew something was up when they took the attendance report to the office. They came back to class lit up with excitement. "This is something our kids really need because, for some of them, this will be the only present they get," she explained.
For principal Johnson, the Angel Tree project was also about giving her students the gift of hope. "It is an amazing opportunity to let them know we value them and we think they are special," she said. "Because when they have hope, it will help them go further in life than anything else."
As the students left clutching their presents tightly, Johnson said "this is what the season is about. The smiles on their faces are priceless."