Catholic Schools Week
Some of the SJND students who participated in the Adopt-a-Family program were, from left, Theresa Killian, Diego Salgues, Cameron Gill, Diego Fernandez, Miracris Villanueva, Celine Pham, Rachel Hungerford, Kristen O'Donnell and Jasmine Palacio.
SJND students step up with holiday help for families
This past holiday season, St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda hosted its first ever schoolwide Adopt-a-Family program. The program helped Catholic Charities, Oakland Catholic Worker and the St. Joseph Basilica Angels Tree program provide Christmas gifts to families in need. SJND also collected gift cards for young adults who were formerly in foster care through a partnership with the organization Beyond Emancipation.
The Adopt-a-Family project provided students the opportunity to engage in meaningful service. First, a group of SJND students and a current parent compiled the families' wish lists by personally interviewing the children in need and distributing the lists to groups and departments throughout the campus.
"While I was interviewing families I felt very grateful that I am able to speak two languages, and have the ability to help others," said freshman Alexa Sanchez. "It took me back to a place where I was as a little girl. There were Christmases where we would also go to places like Oakland Catholic Worker to get gifts. Seeing how there are others that are in the same position I was in, I know how happy the kids would be to have gifts on Christmas day."
Once all of the homerooms, teams, clubs and departments received the families' wish lists, they started shopping for the gifts. The administration office was transformed into Santa's workshop overnight with presents, including a stroller, microwave, scooter, bike, tablet and clothes. Students organized and wrapped the presents for each family.
On Dec. 10, the high school hosted the families from Catholic Charities in the school library to enjoy Christmas cheer with music, decorations, goodies, an art station and games. The children of the families were delighted when special guest Santa Claus (Theology faculty member Adam Chaffey) arrived bringing many presents.
"I assumed that the families were just going to come to the library, pick up the gifts, say thank you and leave, but I was wrong," said junior Eric Tran. "I was given the opportunity to sit down with a family, play Uno and Blackjack, and just enjoy time filled with laughs and smiles all around. As they were about to leave, they gave me one of those sincere, grateful hugs that you do not forget. I felt like I was truly a part of this family."
Students attended Oakland Catholic Worker's Christmas party to distribute gifts there.
Service learning projects are designed to develop students' sense of social and personal responsibility, increase their understanding of the conditions that warrant service and challenge them to recognize their potential as agents of social change. Chaffey, who organized the project, said to his fellow teachers, "I can't help feel that this is what Catholic education is meant to be about. What you've given to these students in inspiration and education, has allowed 160 people to go to the Christmas tree this Christmas and know that they are loved."
It was a lesson student Elle Callsen articulated beautifully in a reflection: "In the Catholic Social Teachings, Solidarity teaches us that 'We are one family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, whatever they may be' (USCCB). This Catholic Social Teaching emphasizes our need to help others no matter their background."
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