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December 18, 2013

UCS students get into habit of giving

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

Even from a young age, Utica Community Schools students are learning that ’tis the season for giving.

According to school officials, more than 30 schools in the district have put together charity drives for about 180 projects during the holiday season.

Jason Ellis, principal of Schuchard Elementary School, said his school’s student council helped organize a canned food drive for the Kiwanis Club and ended up collecting 26 boxes of food.

Ellis described the effort as an easy way for students to give back to their community, and he said the kids get a sense of pride from doing their part to help others.

“It’s easy to bring a can to school, but it’s powerful to see hundreds of cans put together,” he said. “You can’t just teach that — they have to see that, and they have to be a part of it.”

Besides the canned food drive, Ellis said Schuchard works with underprivileged families and tries to give food items and toys so the families can celebrate Christmas.

“We wrap them for the families, and we work in communication with the parents so the kids don’t know or see anything,” he said.

Throughout the year, the school also arranges pickups of lightly used items like bikes and baby seats that go to the group Disabled American Veterans, Ellis said.

At Bemis Junior High School, student charity projects have been arranged for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots, DoSomething.org, Project Linus, the Basket Project, the Lioness Club and the Kiwanis Club.

Bemis Principal Tom Yaw said his school has a life skills class aimed at eighth-graders that works with the Kiwanis Club and does charitable events for the community.

For instance, Yaw said, the students are doing a canned food drive, as well as working with a local organization called the Basket Project to give food and gifts to families facing sudden loss or low socioeconomic status. The kids also take part in Project Linus, which makes blankets for sick children, he added.

“We’re trying to foster again the sense of community in the kids and getting them to look past themselves and assist others in need,” Yaw said.

In a statement, UCS Superintendent Christine Johns gave credit not only to students but also parents and staff for their generosity.

“I’m proud of the citizenship and concern for others our entire school community demonstrates on a regular basis,” she said.

Learn more about Utica Community Schools at www.uticak12.org by calling (586) 797-1000.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.