Holiday joy and shopping for toys: MHS celebrates 2023 toy drive at annual assembly

Group of students in front of a school bus holding toys they bought.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year as Monticello High School and Sullivan County Head Start teamed up again for their annual toy drive.

Two students smiling with toys on shelves in the background.
MHS students shopped for gifts at the local Walmart.

A tradition for over 40 years, the two organizations collaborate each year to purchase gifts for students enrolled in Sullivan County Head Start programs. Teachers at the local non-profit kicked things off by asking their three and four-year old students what gifts they hoped to receive from Santa Claus. As students eagerly expressed their wishes, teachers took note of what each child asked for; when they were finished, their list totaled 80 items. The teachers then provided the list to MHS students to use on their future shopping trip.

Students wrapping gifts in a classroom.
MHS students returned to the school after shopping at Walmart and  immediately began wrapping gifts.

In order to streamline the shopping process, MHS partnered with Walmart to assist with finding the items the children asked for. The store also set aside registers for MHS students to checkout at once their shopping was complete, in addition to snacks and water. Students had a budget of $20 per child, with wishes ranging from shoes to toys. After buying the gifts, MHS students returned to the school and got to work on wrapping. They were surprised with delicious treats made by Mrs. Furman, Principal Furman’s wife, to help fuel their energy as they wrapped gifts. Teamwork and communication were evident throughout the whole day, as students worked hard to make this Christmas the most magical one yet for the children at Sullivan County Head Start.

Three students wearing Santa hats with one holding a bag full of presents in his hand.
MHS students delivered the presents to Sullivan County Head Start on Dec. 20.

On Wednesday, Dec. 20, MHS students and the toy drive committee made their way to the non-profit organization to deliver presents to the young learners. The Polar Express was read to each classroom and at the end of the book, each student received their own bell to see if they could hear it ring. Then it was time for the guy in the big red suit to make his debut, Santa Claus! Accompanied by his elves, there were mixed reactions from Head Start students when they saw Santa; some were nervous and scared, some were excited, some gave high fives and sat on his lap – there were even a few tears. But those tears turned into smiles when it came time to hand out presents.

Two high school students reading to children in a classroom.
MHS students dressed as Santa’s elves read the Polar Express to each classroom.

Students received their gifts from Santa as his elves called their names one by one. Classroom floors were soon covered with wrapping paper scraps as students eagerly opened their presents. The elves then helped students take their gifts out of the boxes, and spent time playing with the children until it was time to return to the North Pole. As Santa and his elves said goodbye to students, he reminded them to be good as he is always watching and wished everyone a very Merry Christmas.

The following day, MHS held its annual assembly to celebrate the success of this year’s toy drive. There were performances by several student musicians and various music groups including chamber singers, concert band, and dance company. Members of the toy drive committee also gave speeches, describing this year’s event and the positive impact on the community.

Student musicians playing trumpets.
Several MHS student musicians performed at the 2023 Toy Drive Assembly.

Next, the winner of the design contest was revealed; MHS students had the opportunity to create a design for this year’s toy drive, and Zuzanna Mierzwa, with help from fellow classmate Ella Werbalowsky, drew the winning design. The highly anticipated part of the assembly followed, which was finding out which classroom won the attendance competition. While students usually compete to raise funds, this year it was decided they would battle for best attendance in eighth period. The winning class would receive a delectable breakfast prepared by MHS staff members, which was Mr. Bolduc’s class. His students will be able to enjoy their delicious prize once a date is set in the near future.

Student holding up a long sleeve tee shirt with a bear on it.
Zuzanna Mierzwa and Ella Werbalowsky created the award-winning design for 2023 Toy Drive tee shirts.

The joy brought to the children at Sullivan County Head Start by the efforts of the MHS Toy Drive Committee illustrate what the holiday season is all about: generosity and community. When everyone works together to reach a common goal, it shows what can be achieved through teamwork and collaboration, like making the holidays extra special for those in the Monticello community.

High school student playing with three and four year old students.

Parent holding their daughter and smiling for a photo with Santa Claus.

High school students and Santa Claus stand for a group photo in front of the exterior of Monticello High School.