Dec. 14, 2021
Boyce students stuff-a-bus with kindness
Fifth and sixth graders at Boyce Middle School in the Upper St. Clair School District are working to stuff-a-bus in order to brighten the holidays for others. The school’s nearly 600 students are loading a school bus with gift bags filled with tokens of support, friendship and love.
A Boyce tradition for more than 20 years, the Friendship Shoebox project asks students to fill a package with small gifts to brighten the holidays for another child. Suggested items include personal care items; a small clothing item such as fun socks or gloves; something fun such as a craft, book, cards or small game; as well as a treat that may include gum, lollipops or other candy. The project is organized by the Boyce Middle School counselors, Amy Antonio and Tonia Autieri.
The gift bags will be delivered to children in Washington County through Merakey, a nonprofit organization that serves children and families in need. The boxes will then be distributed to children in foster care as well as those who receive services from Washington County Children & Youth Services and a local soup kitchen.
The annual project has evolved to adjust to COVID-19 protocols.
“This year, our students still purchased small gifts for a child in need, but instead of wrapping shoeboxes in class, we provided a plain gift bag with tissue and a tag to each student, that they then decorated independently in guidance class,” Mrs. Antonio said. “They were able to use their creativity to make a unique bag for a child and add their purchased gifts to the bag.”
In previous years, packages traveled throughout the school – passing from student to student – to fill a box truck. This year, students will gradually stuff-a-bus from Dec. 7-14.
“Over the past two years, COVID has definitely changed the look of our Friendship Shoebox Project,” Mrs. Autieri said. “Our human chain needed to be placed on hold last year and again this year, so that we can follow our health and safety guidelines at Boyce. The children's safety is number one, of course, but we were able to modify the project so we could continue to support kids from Washington County.”
The school counselors wanted students to participate in the project, even during the pandemic, because it helps to foster an awareness of others in need while providing the opportunity to make a difference.
“The students have adjusted to the changes amazingly well. They enjoy shopping for the gifts, fixing the bags, and creating cards for the child they shopped for,” Mrs. Autieri said. “I think having the students working creatively on their own bag instead of wrapping a box with paper, has been a positive. Kids really make their bag a representation of themselves which is awesome to see.”
Community service projects, like the stuff-a-bus Friendship Shoeboxes, provide valuable learning opportunities for students.
“Most importantly, it teaches kids that giving and not always receiving can be just as rewarding,” Mrs. Autieri said. “We teach kindness each day to our students, but this project demonstrates what true kindness is.”
Boyce Middle School Principal Dr. Dan O’Rourke was blown away by the kindness and generosity displayed by students and families.
“This annual project has provided our students with a great opportunity to serve others while also benefiting those who are less fortunate,” he said. “It is important, particularly in times like these, to take a step back and reflect on how we can help others.”
The Boyce Middle School staff has made it a priority to incorporate numerous community service projects that focus on helping others throughout the school year.
“I think we all get caught up in our own lives, including the students. Students are busy with school, sports, music, etc. Sometimes it is easy to forget about the rest of the world,” Mrs. Autieri added. “There are people that are struggling every day. These projects help remind us all that it's important to give back when possible, to volunteer time to helping others. Our kids have been so generous and enjoy spreading their kindness. It is evident on a daily basis, but during our Friendship Shoebox Project, they really shine!”