By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
Members of the Moapa Valley High School Student Council and the MVHS Jazz Band recently got a real-life lesson in the true meaning of Christmas. The groups traveled to Cortez Elementary School in Las Vegas on December 12, where each student was able to provide a stocking full of Christmas toys and some special one-on-one time with an underprivileged student in that school.
The idea for the trip came up when the group was discussing what they wanted their Christmas service project to be. Traditionally, the student council sponsors a food drive. But this year they decided they wanted to make a difference on a more personal level.
Jazz Band Director Kim Delgadillo shared the idea of putting together and delivering stockings. She had done this with a previous group with great results.
The kids loved the idea. One of the students had a sister that worked at Cortez Elementary. She had said there were many students in need at that school that would benefit from what the students were trying to do.
The group was able to get a donation of stockings from Walmart. Cortez administrators identified fifty kids they thought would benefit the most. Students each looked at the list of names and ages and chose the child they wanted to sponsor for the event.
Each MVHS student then went shopping for a stocking full of inexpensive toys and items for their chosen child. MVHS Principal Hal Mortensen even agreed to sponsor the bus to take the students there.
On the day of the event, 48 jazz band and student council members took their stockings full of goods and traveled to Cortez to meet the kids in the school’s cafeteria. They began the day with a performance by the Jazz Band. The band played five Christmas tunes, including “Feliz Navidad,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Greensleeves,” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”
In between pieces, Delgadillo took the opportunity to introduce the elementary kids to band music and instruments. She introduced each instrument and explained a little about each one.
Following the band performance, students broke into groups with their kids and gave them the stockings they had prepared. This is the part of the day that really had a big affect on the high school students.
“As we talked, I learned that my girl was lonely and wasn’t going to have much of a Christmas because her mom was in jail,” said Hanna Mortensen. “She was so happy when I gave her the stocking that she was shaking.”
Student Body Vice-President Zach Anderson had a similar experience. “My kid’s favorite superhero was the Hulk, which I didn’t know beforehand,” he said. “When he saw I got him a Hulk toy he was super excited. ”
Jazz Band member Averee Widdison also had a positive experience. “My girl loved everything and said they were the best presents she ever got,” Widdison said. “Most of the stuff I got was pink and it turned out that pink was her favorite color. She pulled out some gloves and said she was so excited because she’d never had gloves before.”
At the same time, Widdison said the experience was also very humbling. “It was cool to see how grateful these little children were for even the smallest toys when they know that may be the only thing they are getting for Christmas,” she said.
Student Body President Kasen Kolhoss also shared his experience. “I got (my boy) some Beyblade toys and he played and played with them the whole time,” he said. “Just by spending time with him, he opened up to me and we started talking. The whole experience really carried a sense of giving and charity to me. I came away with a better understanding about things that are out in the world that we are sheltered from here in the valley.”
Student Council Adviser Donna Swanson, who also helped organize the event, was pleased with the outcome on both sides.
“I told our kids before they went that, because this was a Title I school, for lots of the little kids the most meaningful and constant relationship in their lives is the one they have with their teacher,” Swanson said. “I really wanted each of our kids to take the opportunity to show these elementary kids how important they are as individuals by having a quality one-on-one moment and special time with them, visiting with them and listening to them. It was really rewarding to see the special bonds that were formed and the heartfelt hugs that were shared. The experience was more about the moment than the presents; it was the one-on-one time between our students and those kids that was the most memorable thing for both sides.”
Delgadillo agreed. “It was truly wonderful to watch our kids be so giving and loving,” she said. “Especially at this busy time of year.”