LYNN — The elves at Pickering Middle School have been hard at work all month collecting toys for Item Santa.
The Leadership Group, which has students from grades 6, 7, and 8, are eager to create a positive environment for their school. The community service initiative led the students to a successful food drive at the beginning of the school year and when December came, they knew they wanted to find a way to participate during the holiday season, according to Dina Coffee, the group’s mentor and school guidance counselor.
“We’ve been calling them the Pickering Elves all month,” said Coffee. “It’s been so meaningful watching the kids come in to donate gifts they bought with their own money and even the parents have been so supportive and involved.”
The group created flyers and went homeroom to homeroom to get the word out to their peers and teachers about the toy drive, Coffee said. In just three weeks, the students collected enough toys to fill 32 large bags to be delivered to the Item Santa truck, which distributes the toys to families in need of a holiday pick-me-up.
“I’ve seen a lot of toy drives before and I love seeing the smiling faces of kids getting their gifts,” said eighth-grader Asia Wilkey.
The toy drive became a competition, where every student who donated a toy received a candy cane and the homeroom that collected the most new, unwrapped gifts would win a pizza party, said Coffee. The last day of the drive was Friday, but the donations were still trickling in by the end of the day.
“Some people don’t have the money to get gifts,” said sixth-grader Davin Clement. “We take too much for granted and we should all give back.”
The Leadership group is not a new program for the school, but it does have the most student participation in recent years, said Coffee. The goal is for students to take on multiple community service projects throughout the school year to keep them active and engaged in their community, she said.
The program helps students try on different leadership roles and allows them to be a part of something bigger than academics, Coffee said. The students build each other up and have become a support system for one another.
“My goal is to make Pickering a better place for students after I leave and graduate,” said Wilkey. “I think it’s good to be a role model.”