About 689 students at Canyon High School participated in Cougar Christmas Friday, bringing smiles and joy to more than 100 elementary students in their community. As they tore into their very own wrapped gifts, students from five of Canyon’s elementary schools bonded with their new high school friends who proudly watched as they played with stuffed animals, Legos, Nerf guns, basketballs, bikes and every toy in between.
An annual tradition, which began as a community outreach program six years ago by the Cougar football team, Cougar Christmas has grown into a student-led program with every student organization that wants to participate involved. With the help of the campuses’ Communities in School South Central Texas (CIS) site coordinators, each student organization adopts a student or two from the list of children who have been identified with needs during the holiday season. At least 20 students from each of five elementary schools, which are served by Canyon High, are identified. These schools include Clear Springs, Freiheit, Goodwin Frazier, Morningside and Oak Creek.
Based on each child’s wish list, Canyon High students go shopping, wrap the gifts and patiently wait as the school’s two gymnasiums fill up with fellow high school students and elementary kids wondering who has their name. The anticipation, of course, is part of the fun.
Principal Casey Whittle at Canyon High explained that he turned over the program this year to the students because he believes the best way to teach them about gratitude is to let them experience it firsthand.
Whittle handed the reigns to a few seniors including Adam Alcorta, Nathan Culebreath and Leah Couch. For Alcorta, learning about gratitude and the meaning of the holiday season from fellow students is more gratifying than just hearing what an adult wants you know.
As a partner and advocate for children in need, CIS South Central Texas currently, works with 13 Comal ISD campuses providing a CIS site coordinator on each of these campuses. The coordinator is engaged with counselors, teachers, students and families acting as a social worker, getting to know the families in need, identifying any health, behavioral and family crisis issues and providing or seeking the best services to address their needs.
Cindy Torres is the CIS site coordinator at Canyon High School and helped identify the kids who benefitted from this year’s Cougar Christmas.