When students walked into their classrooms Friday, they were greeted with some of the magic that the holiday season brings to all good boys and girls. Holiday gift baskets overflowed their desks, brimmed with items that they had imagined on an earlier class assignment, “These are a few of my favorite things.”
For these foster youth who attend Alta Vista, located on the grounds of a children’s residential treatment facility-New Alternatives Licensed Child-ren’s institution-Santa could not have arrived at a better time.
Awesome said one 16-year-old.
In a program designed by one of the Alta Vista teachers Katina Gonzalez-a former foster youth herself-Sweetwater District’s department of Special Support Services and employees from the administration center and schools adopted a student and gathered items from their “wish list.” For the 72 teenagers, the spirit of the season was a welcome sight.
“Our Sweetwater District staff have opened their hearts for these special need students,” said Board President Greg Sandoval.”And the exceptional, caring teachers that work with these students to build academic skills for their future should be commended for their work year-round.”
At Alta Vista, students are mending both physical and emotional traumas. The children at Alta Vista are victims of physical/sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, abandonment and other ordeals. They are at the very highest risk of injuring themselves, another person or of running away.
They often have moved from school to school. These12- to 18-years-olds need the safety, security and support of a sheltered treatment facility with round-the-clock care of health professionals.
“Our employees’ compassion make the holidays memorable for these special students,” said Bruce Husson, interim superintendent. “This benevolence is typical of staff in our Sweetwater family.”
“Today, these troubled teens have a taste of happiness,” Logsdon beamed.
Amid the brightly colored wrapping paper and bows, stuffed animals, videos, games, magazines and gift cards were strewn across the student desks. Later, when their work is done, Alta Vista students will get to play with them during their free time.