Kennedy High School students from SkillsUSA, a career and technical skills association and competition, delivered Project Santa to the Tubman shelter in St. Paul on Wednesday afternoon, December 21, 2011. The project was started in 2004 and each year Kennedy SkillsUSA students raise money for small gifts and a party for families staying at the shelter. Sixty stockings filled with small games and toys for young children, six gift cards for teens and thirty-two gift baskets for mothers were handed out to the families using the shelter. The shelter also received a $170 cash donation from the students. Tubman is the state’s largest provider of domestic violence services, with over 20% of all Minnesota shelter beds for women and children experiencing family violence.
Kennedy High School senior and SkillsUSA club president, Cory Schroeder, led the planning and helped shop for the toys. The stockings were filled with pencils, hot cocoa, stickers, snacks, a game and a silly squishy. At the shelter, the kids decorated the stockings with their names in glitter. The kids also decorated cookies, donated by Denny’s 5th Avenue Bakery, with frosting and sprinkles and visited with Santa. Mothers were given a gift basket with lotions, socks and other pampering items.
“It was very heart warming and humbling at the same time,” said Schroeder. “Some women would come up from the shelter and say ‘Can I take this paper bag I am moving out next week?’”
Senior Emily Zho is in her third year of SkillsUSA and Project Santa. “At first I didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal to the kids,” said Zho, about the first year she helped with Project Santa. “It was really amazing how everybody was really involved.”
Senior Shelby Spurlin has competed in SkillsUSA since her freshman year. Her group, Opening and Closing Ceremonies, has won state every year. About Project Santa, Spurlin said, “It is like the highlight of the year basically besides state competition and nationals so this is really important to us.” Project Santa is SkillsUSA’s main service project for the year.
The money for Project Santa came from general donations from families, students and staff. The group collected $250 in general donations from students and staff, $42 from Mr. Scott Etzel, Kennedy’s SkillsUSA advisor and the Industrial Technology teacher, and $180 from Cory’s family, friends and Grandmother Donna Dibble. Donna Dribble, a regular volunteer at Kennedy High School, also assembled the gift baskets.
Abigail Boadu is a state level bronze medalist in the Preschool Teaching Assistant category and says she loves SkillsUSA. Boadu commented about Project Santa, “I felt like many people needed help in the community we live in.”
In January the students will start training for competition. In SkillsUSA students compete in job-like settings. The SkillsUSA mission is to help its student members become world-class workers and responsible American citizens. There are over seventy-seven different contests in trade, technical and service occupations at the SkillsUSA Minnesota Championships.
Last year, over 900 students from both high school and college, competed in their chosen fields at the SkillsUSA Minnesota Championships. At the 2011 championships, Kennedy High School students advanced to Nationals and competed in two categories: Customer Service and Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
At the 2011 Nationals, Kennedy Senior Sophie Konewko was a National Gold Medalist in Customer Service, seven students competing in Opening and Closing Ceremonies placed eighth and Mr. Scott Etzel was advisor of the year. There were over 5,700 contestants. Kennedy High School also has two National Bronze Medalists from past years.
In March 2012, the SkillsUSA Minnesota State Championships will be held in Bloomington.