Multi-Service Center benefits from students’ generosity
A new student group at Mill Valley High School is proving that it can make a difference.
With its goal of kindness and compassion, the Friends of Rachel group set up a Mitten Tree in the school's counselor's office. Each of the 60 mittens listed a gift requested by a child in the community. The wish list was provided by the De Soto Multi-Service Center.
Friends of Rachel adviser Amy Turner said the group was approached by Mill Valley's community service group, Jags, to do the project.
"They had already adopted a family and they had their resources stretched so they asked if we wanted to do the Mitten Tree this year," Turner said.
Senior Matt Sittenauer said Friends of Rachel had always planned on doing a service project for the holidays.
"At first we were going to do Operation Christmas Child, but that came up too fast, Matt said.
The group set up the tree Dec. 3 and encouraged the school to give back to the community by taking a mitten from the tree. They even gave students and incentive - if all the mittens were taken, Principal Joe Novak would dress up in a Christmas Tree costume.
The last day to take a mitten was Thursday, and at first it seemed uncertain that the incentive would be reached.
There were 15 mittens left on the tree Thursday morning, but all of them were taken before the first class began.
Students brought in their wrapped gifts Friday and Monday with the mitten attached. The gifts were taken to the De Soto Multi-Service Center to be distributed to the recipients.
Matt said he used his own money to purchase soccer socks, shin guards, a jersey and a portable compact disc player.
"One of the people I did there were two different mittens and I spend like $44 on it," he said.
Friends of Rachel member Jessica Kelsey said she hopes to do a Mitten Tree again next year when she is a senior.
"I think we would definitely be looking into it again because of the turnout we've had," she said.
Because of this year's turnout, Novak held up his side of the bargain and donned the Christmas tree costume complete with ornaments, lights and a star head piece.
During passing periods and at lunch he stood in the commons area allowing students to get a good laugh at his costume. Novak played along, saying cheesy puns.
"Leaf me alone," he said. "I haven't been tree-ted very well."
Although the costume was somewhat embarrassing, Novak said it sends the right message to the students.
"These things build climate and help kids know we're all human," he said. "We all care about each other."
The Friends of Rachel group was formed in September 2007 after Mill Valley and Monticello Trails Middle School students saw a presentation of Rachel's Challenge. The program, committed to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion, is dedicated to Rachel Scott, the first person killed in the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School.
Counselor Linday Walters although it is difficult to start a new organization, the group had been successful.
"We do a lot of little things around the school," she said. "We had a Hi Five Day where we encouraged everyone in the school to say 'Hi' to five new people."
The group also encourages members to sit with students sitting alone at lunch, greet classmates at the door in the beginning of the day and work with new students to make them feel welcome.
"One of Rachel's goals was to be able to start a chain reaction of kindness, and they've been doing that," Turner said.