Excitement filled the Ponchatoula Community Center on Thursday, December 20, 2018, as After School teachers, students and volunteers celebrated Christmas before dismissing for the holidays.
Waiting for the last buses to arrive, some students shot goals, some played games, some visited and others got their faces painted with a number of choices ranging from Christmas trees to reindeer.
Thanks to many caring people in the area, the event will be long remembered starting with the donated tree and its decorations made by each student from kits that came with it.
Students’ comments added to the glow on their faces as they held doors for people entering. “My teacher’s coming!” one girl exclaimed. “She’s the reason I’m making A’s and B’s now. She’s a good teacher.”
The camaraderie between students and their teachers and teenage volunteers was apparent as many of the children rushed to hug or high-five those who give so much of themselves.
Eyes grew big as each student saw the huge collection of beautifully bagged gifts and wondered aloud, “Who are those for?”
It turned out the volunteer high schoolers, most from the Key Club, have become so attached to the students they help regularly, they decided to get a gift for each child as a reward for hard work. Knowing them personally, the volunteers knew exactly what was wanted.
One little boy beamed, showing what he’s “always wanted” – a Dude Perfect Nerd Sports set he can play with inside or out. A little girl’s joy spilled over showing her ethnic Barbie Gymnastic set. A third-grader even looked up from his pizza and soft drink to say, “This is SO GOOD!” before he even reached the cupcake, candy and popcorn course to go with the movie to come.
Director May Stilley turned the tables on the volunteers when she was joined by Human Resources head Lisa Jones giving the helpers gifts from the City.
Mrs. Stilley told of being a little girl and her parents getting Christmas cards but she’d never gotten one for herself. Asking how many students had never had their own card either and seeing most hands go up, she made sure no one can say that again. She had one for every student.
Of course, Santa Claus made a jolly appearance and stayed to help throughout which was extra nice knowing how busy he is at this time of year.
Jeff Wright presented Magic Art Pads from Cypress Pointe and its management and the City donated batteries needed to operate them.
Asked what Christmas is about, the children gave answers from “family and friends” to “Baby Jesus” and Director Stilley followed up with the importance of giving to show love, stressing it doesn’t have to be a bought gift. The students joined in on her suggestions that a gift can be “doing something for someone” such as putting away toys and clothes, cleaning their rooms, saying “I love you”, giving a smile to brighten someone’s day, making something or even drawing a picture for someone.
From the thoughtful answers and actions, it was evident A-B-C’s aren’t all that’s being taught at the Ponchatoula After School Program.