ELKINS — Davis & Elkins College students are extending their resources, their time and their devotion to the community to make the holiday season brighter and warmer for area youth.
Two initiatives, the Community Christmas Project and Senators Fostering Hope, made their way to two elementary schools Friday.
Students at Third Ward Elementary School and Beverly Elementary School received a surprise visit and gifts from members of the D&E Student Assembly and student-athletes. Bearing brightly colored oversized gift bags and supplies for making cookie ornaments, the D&E group spread Christmas cheer and began new friendships.
Gathered around tables, the students traced the ornaments with icing and sprinkles all the while sharing their Christmas wishes.
Many of those wishes came true when the 40 youths opened their gift bags filled with winter clothing, blankets, snacks and toys.
“I really need this for walking in the snow,” a boy at Beverly Elementary said, slipping his arm into the sleeve of his new coat.
“I don’t think Santa Claus will even have to stop at my house this year,” said another boy as his eyes widened to take in all the bag contained.
It wasn’t only the young students whose day was brightened with the visit.
“I really loved seeing their reaction and just hanging out and talking with these kids,” said D&E Student Assembly President Madeline “Maddy” Brown of Hedgesville.
Every semester, the D&E Student Assembly leads the way for various campus organizations to complete community service projects. For the past two years, the Assembly hosted a project to celebrate the holiday season.
Previously, the students worked with Valley Head Elementary School and the Randolph County Family Resource Network to provide gifts to youth. This year, a collaboration with the Randolph County Board of Education resulted in a pairing with Third Ward and Beverly Elementary schools.
“There is another layer to this, and it touches my heart from my own childhood experience,” said D&E Vice President for Student Affairs Scott Goddard, who serves as adviser to Student Assembly. “Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I attended the R.K. Mellon Elementary School in the Ligonier Valley School District. Every holiday season, the Mellon Family would provide special gifts to the local youth. By doing so, the Mellon Family had a positive impact on my childhood. We hope to have the same impact in the lives of the students that Davis & Elkins College engages this holiday season.”
Although Senators Fostering Hope got its start with the holiday season, the project will continue long afterward. Similar to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, Senators Fostering Hope is geared toward mentoring youth in kindergarten through fifth grade who are in foster care, single-parent households or living with grandparents.
The program focuses on health and wellness, mentorship and support, and academic success with the goal of forming life-long bonds and life-changing outcomes. The youths will be invited to attend athletic practices and games at D&E, and D&E student-athletes will participate in the youths’ school activities.
“The goal is an added layer of inspiration and stability for these students, support to the parents and families and for our student-athletes to appreciate and advance their character development through engagement,” said D&E Director of Athletics Jamie Joss.
Students will be selected based on the recommendation of their school principals. For additional information, email Joss at email@example.com.