Neat rows of graham crackers covered 8-year-old Hirbod Dehghani’s juice box. Together with frosting spackle and a driveway lined with chocolate drops, the Navajo Elementary School second-grader had the makings of a fine gingerbread house Friday.
“This is better than computer lab,” he said.
Hirbod was one of 250 Navajo students to make a holiday house and receive a gift from the Scottsdale Unified School District’s service learning students Friday in one of dozens of service projects Scottsdale students are participating in around the holidays.
While Scottsdale students serve the community yearround, the holidays are a popular time of year for giving, said Ann Achziger, service learning chairwoman for the Scottsdale Unified School District. Of the 800 projects service learning students complete during the year, 21 percent are around the holidays, she said.
And the most popular ones involve helping younger kids.
Service learning picked Navajo for their project because it’s one of Scottsdale’s low-income schools, said Gianna Miller, the Desert Mountain High School senior who coordinated the project.
“When you get to do work like this, you get to see you’re making people happy,” she said.
But it’s not just service learning — holiday cheer is being spread by numerous student groups in Scottsdale this season. Saguaro High School’s HERO Club collected food and gifts for the Weldon House in Phoenix, which helps women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. Cherokee Elementary School collected 140 bags of toiletries to donate to Phoenix’s homeless.
At Yavapai Elementary School, Tracey Popeck’s fourthgrade class organized a collection for Packages From Home, which sends items to soldiers.
Even though Yavapai has a lot of low-income students, the class managed to collect 305 items for troops in the first week of the drive, Popeck said. Those have included toiletries found on sale, small stuffed animals for soldiers to hand out to children, craft projects and old video games.
Popeck said her students have been excited about the project, asking if they can work on it every spare minute.
“I not only want to teach them curriculum, but what it means to be a good citizen,” she said. “We’re hoping that we’ll help a whole lot of soldiers feel a little piece of home.”
The situation is similar at Supai Middle School, which has several families getting assistance over the holidays through donations from businesses, teachers and the Scottsdale Police Department, said school social worker Suzi Wall.
But these students realize they’re luckier than a lot of people. Wall recalled the creative ways students found to give last year when Supai adopted two families from the Phoenix Rescue Mission.
“I had kids making CDs, just burning CDs and giving it to them,” Wall said. “We have a lot of very sensitive kids who want to give back.”