Julia DiVeronica, of Canastota, learned about a transitional housing program through her year-long internship with Community Action Partnership of Madison County, a local nonprofit that serves families in need. After a conversation with her CAP mentor, Sandi Bain, and her MOBOCES teacher Joanne Saya, Julia proposed to her classmates buying Christmas gifts for the children in CAP’s housing program.
“Everyone was really excited about the idea. It was voluntary, no one had to buy a gift if they didn’t want to, but everyone did,” Julia said. "It would be hard for these families to buy Christmas gifts for their kids so I wanted to do something to help."
Students brought in clothes, toys, books, stuffed animals and other items for children, who range in age from infant to teens, and took Friday to wrap and label the gifts, with holiday music playing in the background. Saya, who contributed the wrapping paper, gift bags and ribbon to the project, will help Julia deliver the gifts to CAP next week.
“It’s about more than just academics. We talk about ethics and giving back, being an active part of the community,” Saya said. “What was so nice about this was that it was student-initiated, student-driven and grew out of the internship experience this student is having.”
New Ventures is a one-year course that allows students to explore unique career options and prepare for college. Students learn a basic business curriculum and they are placed at internship site connected to their career goals with an employer/mentor from the community. Julia’s placement in the housing division of CAP is giving her insight into social services, psychology and nonprofit work; her career goal is to become a forensic psychologist.
Saya said the project was also a natural fit for her current unit on poverty. Students recently read “Nickel and Dimed,” which focuses on the working poor, discussed welfare reform issues and researched current events related to poverty.
“Having done all that background work and then learning about these families – I think the students really developed compassion for what these families are going through,” Saya said. “We don’t even think about it, but all these gifts are a luxury to some people.”