August 29, 2014

Elyria
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Teens bring joy to fellow students’ holiday

GRAFTON — Teachers are hoping there is more giving than receiving this holiday season at Midview High School.
Earlier this month, ornaments were hung on a paper tree inside the school cafeteria to symbolize teenagers in need during the holiday season. Each ornament listed an item that a less-fortunate student needs — sweatshirts, socks and jeans topped the list.

Other students simply asked for gift cards to local grocery stores where an entire family could benefit, not just one person.
Midview High School librarian Mercedes Szuch said the Giving Tree program is organized by Middies Helping Students, a predominately faculty-oriented group that helps students in need year-round. For example, in the past the organization has assisted a few students in purchasing a cap or gown for graduation.

“It’s a great concept,” Midview High School art teacher Judy Otten said. “At Christmastime, we have the students participate (in Middies Helping Students) with the Giving Tree.”

At the beginning of the month, 48 ornaments hung on the tree, but within days, student organizations, entire classes, staff members and individual students took down the ornaments and set out to make the holiday season a little brighter for their fellow classmates.

“Thirty-nine families will be helped this year,” Szuch said, noting some ornaments will benefit more than one student in a household.
All ornaments were made anonymously by students after speaking with their guidance counselors, Szuch said.
The gifts were collected through Wednesday and will be distributed confidentially before winter break, which begins Dec. 21.

But for students in Otten’s Art I class, it doesn’t matter who is being helped by the Giving Tree. Just the fact that someone is being helped is proof enough that students care about each other.

One year, Otten asked her art class to raise $30. That amount soon grew to more than $170 after other classes joined the effort, which ended up helping four students have a happy holiday.

“The students are extremely giving and passionate about others. This does bring out kids helping their own community,” Otten said.
Szuch said that earlier this month, she saw three to four students walk up to the tree and pluck off an ornament by themselves, without the financial support of a class or student organization.
“People say teens are not like they used to be, but they are and they know people are in need,” Otten said.

Freshman Tiffany Kaufman, 15, said she donated money for the Giving Tree last year and this year because it makes her feel good knowing someone else will have a nice holiday.

Sophomore Katie Vitovitz, 15, echoed that sentiment.

“It’s about giving back to our fellow students,” Katie said. “We appreciate the generosity of Middies Helping Students for setting up this program to raise money to help families in our school district.”

Contact Melissa Linebrink at 329-7155 or mlinebrink@chroniclet.com