Journalism Next from The Out-of-Door Academy: Sam Albano spreading Christmas joy to Booker's first graders

Special to the HeraldJanuary 7, 2013 

When Sam Albano, senior, went to Booker Elementary to have lunch with her kindergarten buddy as part of a community service project for 11th graders, she was surprised when her buddy was not allowed to get another packet of ketchup from the cafeteria. Extra ketchup was not in Booker's budget. Sam was astonished by this fact as she thought about how much ODA students take for granted getting as much ketchup as they desire every day.

As Sam thought about the upcoming holiday season, she wondered about Booker's first graders and if they would receive any presents under their trees. She decided to build gift boxes to give to 100 elementary students. She and senior Andrew Avery have asked the ODA community to help them collect 100 shoe boxes to make and wrap into gifts for these kids.

Sam says, "I just want to put a smile on their faces. I don't think its fair that they don't get to receive many presents for Christmas. Maybe they do but in case they don't I would like to help in any way I can."

After addressing the ODA community, Sam went personally to ask teachers if they had any shoe boxes. She continued her search and went to Ross stores as a last minute resort. Her venture proved successful, as she received dozens of shoe boxes.

Despite her uncertainty in achieving her goal, Sam states with enthusiasm, "Yes, I ended up getting like 110 shoe boxes!"

Sam is planning on going to the dollar store and using her own money to purchase small gifts to put in the shoe boxes for Booker's first graders.

Sam says she will be filling these shoe boxes with "Rice Krispie treats, pencils, friendship bracelets, Hello Kitty mini, notebooks, toy cars, lollipops, play dough, jelly belly packs, wash cloths that expand in water, etc."

As her project comes in a close, she states, "I can't wait to hand them their gifts wrapped with bows and watch them tear them apart, hopefully with excitement!"

For Sam, celebrating Christmas means, in part, recognizing her and her school's responsibility to give back to her community. She reflects,

"It has taught me that it takes a lot of effort, hard work and commitment but when I start to think it isn't going to work I think of the little kids faces when they receive the presents and that kept pushing me through. So when things get a little rocky, just find the positive in the situation and that will help you get through it!"

Sam's predicts her enthusiasm to make a difference will stay with her through the years. She says, "if the opportunity comes up again, I would love to keep doing this project for a long time anywhere I am."

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