Greeks give ‘A Gift for Christmas’
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 01:12
This past September, Brandi Carter, a therapeutic recreation major at the University of Southern Mississippi, began her senior practicum at CARES School in Hattiesburg. Despite its close proximity to campus on U.S. 49, many students at USM have never even heard of the school.
“I would call it an alternative school, but the kids also have mental disabilities, “ Carter said. “A lot of them have been neglected and abused.”
Per the CARES School website, there are multiple branches of the nonpublic school, and the program describes itself as a special education curriculum that also provides psychosocial services to its students. CARES is available to Mississippi children ages 6-18 who struggle in their native school and home environments.
The CARES organization serves students who have exhausted all available options of intervention targeted towards personal relationships and behavioral problems. In addition, CARES schools work to help children who display an inability to learn but lack any proven link to intellectual, sensory or health factors. In other words, CARES schools help students who have reached the end of their ropes in their original educational systems and give them hope that they can succeed with the aid of personalized attention.
When one considers the struggles many of these children have endured, it’s not hard to imagine that the students at Hattiesburg’s CARES school tugged at the heartstrings of Carter. After just two months at the school, Brandi came up with the idea to adopt the entire school, which enrolls about eighteen students.
“I took it upon myself to take the idea to my friends and my sorority, AKA, to adopt the whole school,” Carter said. “We sent out an open invitation to groups on campus to ask them to bring certain items along with monetary donations.”
The sorority that Carter is a member of, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, traditionally adopts a family each Christmas season.
“This is our first time to adopt an entire school.” Carter said. “These are the only gifts some of these kids will be receiving. There were parents who cried once they found out we were adopting all of the students.”
The event, which took place Monday night, was titled “A Gift for Christmas.” After just 30 minutes, about 30 toys and more than $80 in monetary donations had been collected due to the generosity of AKA, along with various National Pan-Hellenic Conference organizations.
Carter stressed the importance of being charitable during the holiday season.
“Kids deserve a good and happy Christmas,” Carter said. “If I’m privileged, why not help other people who are less privileged than I am?”