Globe Santa has always counted on the help of schoolchildren in dozens of Boston-area schools to raise funds that help provide Christmas gifts for thousands of children in needy families.
This year, Globe Santa was pleased to learn that students at Chelsea High School, who became aware of the program’s recipients through classroom reading and writing assignments, have been working together to help.
It started when English teacher Amy Mondello began teaching a composition course to freshmen this semester and realized that few of them ever read a newspaper.
She was determined to change that, she said, so she searched the Globe for stories she thought they would find interesting. She copied them and gave them to her students to read. Then she asked them to write in journals about what they had read.
Last month, she began giving her students articles that detail the letters sent to the Globe by parents asking Globe Santa for Christmas presents for their children.
Modello said she was surprised when students reacted to the articles by asking whether they could help Globe Santa, too.
“A lot of these kids have parents who might be writing into the program themselves,” she said. “I thought they’d find the stories interesting, that they’d relate to them, but I never expected that they’d want to contribute.”
But contribute they have.
After setting an initial goal of raising $30, which would nearly cover the $35 cost of toys for one Globe Santa child, Mondello’s writing students have already raised $170, much of it from fellow students and their teachers. And they hope to raise more.
“We started off by throwing change in a jar, a quarter here, a nickel there,” she said. “Then they started taking the jar around to other classrooms and to the cafeteria at lunch. They’ve been asking their teachers and their friends to help out. It’s been great.”
The students still write in their journals every day, in what Mondello calls a “quick-write.” She generally does not read or grade journal entries, so she has not been privy to what they have written about the Globe Santa letters. But they are open to talking about it, she said.
Luis Merino Barahona, 14, said he was particularly struck by a Globe Santa story about a mother who was fighting cancer while trying to provide for her son.
“She had a hard life, and so did her kid, who was only 7,” he said. “But she said in her letter that the kid never complained. He was helping his mother instead. It made me realize that we complain about such little things, for stupid reasons. It made me want to help those people.”
And he has. Every day, said Mondello, Luis takes the Globe Santa jar around school. When school is over, he stays for Mondello’s “Homework Help” session and counts the money raised.
Melanie Mercado Perez, also 14, was motivated to help by several of the Globe Santa stories she read in class. One was about two children who lost their parents, as well as their grandmother, this past year.
Another, Melanie said, described “a mom who got herself out of a 15-year abusive marriage. She has four kids and was really struggling. That one really touched me.”
She said she is enjoying her first year at Chelsea High School, where she belongs to a community service club.
“I’ve started to get involved this year,” she said. “There are a lot of opportunities here to help out the community.”
About 20 percent of families in the city of Chelsea have incomes that place them below the poverty line. This year, Globe Santa will provide toys to 2,001 children in 1,149 Chelsea families.
All the money donated each year to the Globe Santa Fund goes to needy children, so that means 100 percent of money raised by the Chelsea High School students will be used to buy gifts for those children. All other expenses are paid by the Globe Foundation.
Most Globe Santa donations come from individuals, families, or local organizations. The program’s slogan is “give a little, help a lot,” because the fund is bolstered by thousands of small donations that add up to brighten the lives of so many children.
For each donation of $35 to Globe Santa, one child will receive a basket of new toys and at least one book.
So Mondello’s students are well on their way to delivering Christmas joy to at least five children. “I’m so proud of my students,” she said. “They are just so excited to be raising money for this program.”