Leading During a Time of Giving

Giving Tree

By Melissa Meyer, Administrator in Residence at Green Dot Public Schools

When Catherine Stine joined Ánimo Leadership Charter High School staff four years ago as an English teacher, she quickly saw a compelling opportunity. Each holiday season, Stine receives a list of families in need, whose children attend Moffett, the elementary school across the street from Ánimo Leadership--the basis of their annual Giving Tree project.

Even as Ánimo Leadership shares its name with one of Green Dot’s core values, she felt that the students could do more in maximizing their leadership potential.

"I wanted to help create an experience for our students that exists in many large, traditional schools,” said Stine. “So, I worked with Principal [Alyce] Prentice to establish an Associated Student Body at school.”

Associated Student Body (ASB) students are in charge of organizing a wide range of school-wide events including culture weeks, spirit weeks, assemblies, and blood drives. In order to participate in the ASB, students must apply by submitting an application along with teacher recommendations. Students who run for elected positions such as president and vice president are elected through a voting process. For appointed offices, which include commissioners, students are selected based on a group interview.

As the advisor for the ASB, Stine is instrumental in guiding the students and the activities they coordinate at Leadership. But what is Stine’s favorite event of all? The Giving Tree.

Associated Student Body

Leadership's annual Giving Tree

The ASB coordinates the collection of gifts, supplies, and food for these families. Each classroom is given the name of one family member, then students collect gifts based on each individual’s wish list. In addition, families are invited to the school to enjoy a holiday meal, play games, and partake in other holiday activities.

“During the event, parents are moved to tears because they see how happy their children are,” says Stine. The event helps to unify the community as well as Leadership’s student body. As 12th grade student Stephany Lopez-Figueroa points out,

“I wouldn’t have built the relationships that I have made over the years or have reached out to people in other grades without the ASB and events like the Giving Tree. It creates a family.”

Giving Tree

For Lopez-Figueroa, her experience is preparing her to fulfill her life’s ambition: giving back to the community from which she came. “I’m a successful product of this community. Countless community members have helped me along the way, so it’s important for me to give back to it. Therefore, my goal after graduating from college is to return to work in this community to ensure that the giving continues in perpetuity.”

Throughout the year, the ASB addresses various social and cultural issues that impact the community around Ánimo Leadership. Involvement in the organization provides students with a deeper understanding of important issues and allows them to directly participate with a specific focus. “With the help of the ASB, we’re building leaders through events like The Giving Tree,” says Stine.

We cannot do this work without your generous support. Our public schools are free and open to all students--but resources are always limited, and your generosity can make all the difference in the communities we serve. Join us in our work to help transform public education so that all students graduate prepared for college, leadership, and life.

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