Bexley City Schools
Staffers, students reach out during holiday season
Projects range from adopting a family to asking for donations of peanut butter
The holidays are all about gift-giving, festive decorating, celebrating and following family traditions.
But while most holiday traditions start at home, others come alive in the classroom.
Keary Ryan, a math teacher at Bexley High School, was following his father's footsteps when he launched Mitzvahs for Christmas in his classes in 2010.
Ryan's father, Jimmy Ryan, was a history teacher in Bexley for many years and started the program with his own students. Upon retirement, the elder Ryan encouraged his son to continue the tradition.
So, in 2010, Keary Ryan asked his own classes to come together to adopt one needy family for the holiday.
"I was amazed at the response," said Ryan, who has expanded the number of adopted families each year since.
"Obviously, my No. 1 goal is to help these families in need, but I also think this can be an amazing learning experience for my students," Ryan said. "Some of them will find out how good it can feel to help others and hopefully continue to perform acts of human kindness as they grow into adults after high school.
"Others will realize how fortunate they really are when we deliver the gifts and they are able to see with their own two eyes what it is like for a single mother with four children to live in such difficult conditions."
This year, Ryan has decided to take the effort a step further -- each of his three AP calculus classes is adopting a family, helping to provide for a better holiday. Many of his students have pledged to bring in bikes, MP3 players, toys, clothing and household items, among other gifts. One student brought in four used bikes alone, Ryan said.
Ryan said he is proud of his students for helping to make the personal tradition come alive.
"They are using their own resources, as well as reaching out to others in the community for help, and hopefully we will be able to make a significant difference for our families this Christmas," he said.
Ryan's students aren't the only examples of holiday giving in Bexley classrooms.
Traditionally, at this time of the year, youngsters of all ages come up with gift-giving and donation ideas, making for a charitable holiday in Bexley schools.
Bexley Middle School eighth-graders Anna Martin and Abbie Hirsch recently reached out to the Choice Food Pantry and Lutheran Social Services, said Nate Maier, Bexley Middle School International Baccalaureate coordinator.
"Anna and Abbie learned that the pantry is always in need of peanut butter, and so they have organized a peanut-butter drive in all middle school homerooms," said Maier.
They have set their sights on collecting more than 300 jars -- one per student.
For the third year in a row, Bexley High School's music department will conduct a food drive for the Bishop Griffin food pantry on Livingston Avenue.
"We are collecting nonperishable food items and cash donations at all of our winter concerts and at Bexley High School right up until winter break starts on Dec. 20," said Andrew Johnson, the district's music coordinator and band director.
Also at Bexley High School, Kristen McMahon, a school counselor, is coordinating a collection of toiletries, clothing, canned-food items and furniture to benefit several local families. McMahon plans to the deliver collected items, as well as gifts and clothing provided by Developmental Assets Resource Network, to families Dec. 21.
At their annual Thanksgiving program in November, Cassingham Elementary School students donated $7,222.25 to the Charity Newsies organization. Bexley Middle School presented a check to Charity Newsies for $5,721.84 on the same day. The local nonprofit helps families in need by purchasing new clothing and distributing it free of charge to Franklin County school children.
Bexley students raised money by participating in various kinds of games and contests, including a Turkey Tug and a moustache-growing effort, with proceeds going to Charity Newsies.
At Cassingham, students completed chores at home for extra cash, which they donated to the organization.
"What a lovely representation of the soul of our school," Cassingham Principal Jeannine Hetzler said, adding the event included " ... lovely voices raised in song, sharing talents and having a great time."
Kindergartners at Cassingham also are collecting gently used plastic toys for the Second Chance Toys organization.
A Bexley Cub Scout troop based out of Maryland Elementary School is conducting its own food drive, said Jon Hood, the school's principal.
Bexley is not alone in its giving. According to Charity Navigator, which analyzes national gift-giving trends, total donations to charitable organizations last year reached $298 billion in the U.S. Individual donations topped corporate giving, representing nearly nine out of every 10 dollars donated.