Chelsea Byers doesn’t expect to get Christmas gifts from her family — but she doesn’t want your pity.
This year, the Mesa teenager asked her parents to spend their money, instead, on presents for families in need as part of the Adopt a Family program at Mesa’s Mountain View High School.
“It’s part of our tradition. It’s always been done since we’ve been here,” said Byers, 17.
The school’s student council organized the drive by finding families from the Mesa Unified School District’s list of families in need.
Many are migrant workers employed in agriculture, said Tillie Peralta, a migrant liaison in the district’s English Language Acquisition Department.
“When you go to home visits you can see for yourself what they need — people who sleep on the floors who need beds or who don’t have proper clothing,” Peralta said. “Some of these kids have never had a Christmas with presents and a tree.”
“It seems like we have more families than ever before,” she added.
Tyler Pace, 17, said he believes images like those are what encouraged teens to join the project by bringing gifts and food donations to their classrooms.
The Adopt a Family project brings the highest turnout of any volunteer project at the school, the teens said. This year more than 80 families — 300 individuals — will receive gifts from Mountain View.
Earlier this week, hundreds of brightly wrapped gifts topped the school library’s bookshelves, and bicycles and buckets of canned food lined the walkways. On Tuesday, students and community volunteers set out to deliver the gifts. Pace handed out more than 80 maps and directions derived from the Internet.
“They have the option of delivering the gifts themselves. Some clubs do it, like the Spanish Club, because they want to practice their Spanish when they deliver them,” Pace said.
Other Mesa schools participated in the program, too, though Mountain View adopted the most families, Peralta said.
After winter break, the families who received gifts will show their appreciation to the school by preparing a huge Mexican food luncheon for the students and staff, she said.
If you would like to donate clothing, toiletries, household items or money to needy families in the Mesa Unified School District, call (480) 472-0547.