When organizers of the Things for Teens gift drive at Plainview High School realized they were at about one-third of their goal, they knew they had to rally their classmates. Chick-fil-a Leader Academy members Malak Abu-Esheh, Maddie Ott, and Trenton Barrett, all freshmen, said they used word-of-mouth, social media, school announcements, and even went into classrooms to push classmates to give.
“I think it’s amazing that we raised over 900 items just today,” Abu-Esheh said on Thursday. “Yesterday we had, I think, 345.”
During an interview, two other students were seen walking through the hallway with more shopping bags full of gifts.
Surrounding a Christmas tree in the hallway near the library, stacked gifts created an avalanche of basketballs, workout equipment, clothes and hair care products that nearly any teen would find useful. Many gifts will be distributed to area schools today and remaining items will be donated to the Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma before Christmas.
In total, students collected 1,195 items for teens across the area who may not otherwise receive much this Christmas. The goal of 1,100 items was surpassed in about two weeks, meaning that Plainview High School students will have an extended lunch today to celebrate the drive’s second successful year.
“Last year we set our goal for 400 and we ended up surpassing that, too,” said student council co-president Jentri Rayburn. She said this was the first year the student council got involved with the drive, after Chick-fil-a Leader Academy students started the project last year.
Student council co-president Carolin Harris is excited to see the gift drive growing. “It’s really cool to see everyone coming together and being able to donate all these gifts to teens,” she said.
Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma executive director Laura Akers said her organization is contacted each December by other area nonprofits and social service groups that identify at-risk families. “When I say at-risk, I mean that perhaps there won’t be any presents under the tree, maybe there won’t really be a holiday meal that’s prepared, it will just be your average day,” she said.
Teens in need have already been identified by the Grace Center, and Akers said she is excited to see what kinds of gifts have been donated by teens, for teens. During gift drives that often target young children or the elderly, she said the Plainview students are filling a need by giving to teenage residents that may be overlooked during gift drives.
“To my knowledge, this is one-of-a-kind and it is very much needed,” she said.
The sentiment was not a coincidence, either. “It’s like the mid range that nobody ever thinks about,” said Ott. “So I think it’s really cool that we did Things for Teens instead of Toys for Tots.”
“I think it’s amazing because a lot of people help the elderly and the little kids and they kind of leave out the teenagers,” said Abu-Esheh.