Like most Valley schools, the Donna Independent School district serves many students who come from low-income families. So for these parents, the holiday season can be difficult because they cannot afford to buy gifts for their children.
The problem is so widespread that Donna ISD implemented a program whose goal is to raise money for each child in need so they can buy something for themselves for Christmas. “We’re a district that has 48 percent limited English proficient students and a 92 percent overall population that’s economically disadvantaged,” Donna ISD Superintendent Fernando Castillo said. “These students do not have the same resources that our staff may have. So what we want to do is be able to assist and give back.”
The program is called Christmas Foundation and is in its fourth year at the district. Each campus sets a goal of how much money they want their employees from their respective schools to collect. Whatever amount is brought in, the central office’s administration then matches it. This year the schools combined raised $9,978. With the contribution by district staff, the total was $19,956.
The campuses receive their cut in the form of gift cards. Students can get up to $100 each depending on the amount of money raised by their schools. The students are then bused to the local Wal-Mart where they select their own items.
“The campuses have the final say on selecting the students they want to participate in the shopping spree,” Castillo said. “Of course they’re looking for students who are doing well academically and are good role models but the parents may not have the resources to give them a little something for Christmas.”
Students at Singleterry Elementary received a gift bag filled with toys, snacks, and candies. “It was awesome,” 5th grade student Jesus Gloria said. “I’m so thankful for the gift.” Fifth grade student Jonathan May-Nieves said “It is a good idea because that way the people who don’t have toys could get some.”
Castillo believes this gesture goes a long way. “Many of us have a story,” Castillo said. “It could be a little tennis ball or a little plastic pistol that we would receive that was minimal in cost but I remember opening my eyes and getting a big smile. We want to continue doing that so we can bring joy to these little kiddos.”