Students pay it forward this Holiday Season

Published 12:04 am Saturday, January 2, 2016

ST. JAMES — Christmas is the season of bright lights, magic, family gatherings and gift giving. It’s a mad dash to the finish line, a blur and sometimes chaos.

Dressed as a gift, Halle Armant holds the hand of Shane Napoleon.

Dressed as a gift, Halle Armant holds the hand of Shane Napoleon.

Society makes it way too easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas. Once those Christmas trees are put away and the lights are taken down, will children have a pile of toys that is left relatively untouched?

Will they know that Christmas should bring the message of hope, peace, joy, forgiveness and love?

The students of Fifth Ward Elementary will know what Christmas should bring to the world. There has been so much sadness in the world around us, so rather than focus on the goodies under the tree bearing their names, the students of Fifth Ward Elementary in St. James thought of the families in America who this year bear heavy hearts and unfathomable loss.

They took out a pencil and some paper and brainstormed. It was surprising how easily they came up with ideas, even far-fetched ones. Their ideas were great and inspiring, so now what?

They decided to pay-it-forward. It feels like now, more than ever, was the time to pay-it-forward, which could be a simple act of acting nobly in any given situation and selflessly giving to others. Selflessness is the sincere concern for the well being of others.

It’s about love. It’s about compassion. It’s about kindness and faith. It’s about making a difference in the world. The students realized they couldn’t do everything, but they knew they could do something.

Led by principal Vondra Etienne-Steib, the whole school and the surrounding community supported their pay-it-forward initiative. The second grade class encouraged everyone to give toys to the Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” Program.

The 4-H and Beta club helped the first grade class gather fruits to give to the senior citizens to promote healthy living.

The fourth and fifth grade students decided to gather coats for the “Coats for Kids” Program.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, the third grade students reached out to try to help the victims, their families and all those in the French capital affected by the horrific terrorist attacks across the city. They wrote letters and created cards of condolences for some of the students enrolled at The International School of Paris.

If you walked through the school, there were toys for tots and coats for kids overflowing in the office and the library. Fruits were overflowing the refrigerator in the teacher’s lounge. These students were on a mission.

Steib was so touched by the students and their pay-it-forward idea that she asked local businesses and community members to help as her students gave the gift of love this holiday season.

The Annual Christmas Production highlighted the students’ efforts. A representative from the United States Marine Corps attended and received over 350 toys.

He gave a special salute to the students for their efforts. A representative from the Coats for Kids Program was also in attendance to receive 150 coats.

The students were happy to accept warm hugs and kisses from the senior citizens that received the fruit bags that the 4-H and Beta club made for them.

After the Christmas production was over, all students were able to smile and enjoy the fact that they possess the ability to make a difference.

This charming, festive story highlights the true meaning of Christmas, the power of kindness and how a simple gesture can bring positivity and happiness to an entire community.

The activities around these good deeds helped the students to learn important lifelong interpersonal skills. The students were also able to see the endless power that they hold in their very own hands.

The students of Fifth Ward Elementary were able to shift their focus from what society tells us Christmas should be all about … to what the true meaning of Christmas really is about and that is the spirit of giving.

— Submitted by Cecile Jones.