It’s one of the longest-running Christmas traditions in Northside ISD. For 48 years, Jay High School has been making the holidays brighter for underprivileged elementary students. Over two days, 140 students from seven elementary schools took a special shopping trip to buy shoes and toys.
On day one, there was a hero’s welcome at Walmart as three NISD school buses arrived with Jay high school students and students from four elementary schools in their community. Walmart staff members stood at the entrance to clap and cheer for the students as they walked in the store with their shopping carts.
“We want them to feel welcome and special,” said store manager Mary Gamboa. “It’s priceless just to see the joy and smiles.”
The elementary students are paired up with high school students, who help them navigate the store, try on shoes, and shop for toys. Each elementary student is given $25 for shoes and $25 for toys, with funds raised by Jay students, staff, and alumni. The total budget is approximately $8,000.
Jay junior Mark Mares knows exactly what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the shopping trip. He attended when he was a student at Cable ES.
“I was happy because at that time, my dad and I weren’t doing so well.” Mares said. “I remember I got a remote control car. It feels good to see the smiles on their faces. When they’re in high school they might want to do this and help continue the tradition.”
The high school students are tasked with keeping the budget, and often pull out their cell phones for quick calculations. Robert Hernandez, a 3rd grader at Mary Hull ES, is grateful for the high school student who helped him shop.
“I had a lot of fun trying to find shoes and socks,” Hernandez said. “And I’ll feel excited to wear them.”
Jay senior Mariesha Stevenson wants to teach elementary school one day and says the shopping trip exemplifies the giving spirit that makes her school special.
“This is Jay,” Stevenson said. “I love being a part of it. These kids deserve it and we can be someone who cares and wants to help them.”
Jay teacher Calvin Buchholtz has helped organize the event all 48 years and plans to retire before next Christmas. There will be new coordinators next year to ensure that the tradition continues.
“For the Jay students, this helps them find their place in the community,” Buchholtz said. “For the elementary students, they’re making a friend and they look up to them. Just watching the faces of the little kids, that’s where it pays off in the end.”
Buchholtz’s impact can also be seen in the students.
“I’ve learned so much from him and he has inspired me to do more volunteer work,” said senior Sedric Kennedy. “He has done so much for this community.”
After the shopping trip, the group returned to Jay for lunch prepared by Culinary Arts students.
Walmart also donated $1,000 to Jay HS and employees assembled goodie bags with treats for all the elementary students.