Photo by Erin Henton
With an ear-to-ear smile on her face, preschooler Arianna Z. reaches up to grab senior Natalie Hole’s hand. They walk together to the cafeteria, where dozens of Student Council members donning Santa hats wait in anticipation of the day’s events.
Adopt-a-Tot is an annual event organized by Student Council (StuCo). Northwest partners with Growing Futures Early Education Center, a local preschool serving low-income families as a part of the federal government’s Head Start program. Growing Futures serves over 250 children, and sent 48 of them to Northwest to participate in Adopt-a-Tot this year.
Fourth hour classes have the option to raise money to be allotted toward gift cards and stocking stuffers for the family of a Growing Futures student. Senior Catie Wood, junior Garrett Goetz and freshman Edgar Vasquez worked together to prepare for the event this year.
“Adopt-a-Tot is probably one of the biggest StuCo events of the year,” Wood said. “It involves a lot of people both at our school and outside of our school, so there’s a lot of planning that comes with making sure all those people are where they need to be at the right time.”
As part of their work on the Adopt-a-Tot committee, Wood, Goetz and Vasquez compiled information about every preschooler attending the event, including their name, age, gender, dietary restrictions and the primary language of the tot and their parents. Each tot was then paired with a Student Council member, taking into account the StuCo member’s fourth hour class and whether they could speak the primary language of the tot.
“These past few years we’ve tried to pair up Spanish-speaking tots with StuCo members that are in Spanish 5 or 6, or are native speakers of the language,” Wood said. “Most of the time, the child knows English because they attend an English-speaking preschool, but their parents might know only limited English. It’s been great to hear stories of when language is no longer a barrier between classes and tots.”
Wood’s absence in the days leading up to the event made things more difficult for the Adopt-a-Tot committee.
“With Adopt-a-Tot there are a lot of chances for mistake,” Goetz said. “This year in particular was harder because was in Japan the week before. It was stressful to have everything run smoothly leading up to the event, but it gave me good practice and made me excited for being the head chair next year.”
Despite all the planning done by the committee before hand, some sudden changes on the day of made things more difficult. When five preschoolers were unable to come on the day of Adopt-a-Tot, Wood and StuCo sponsor Sarah Dent had to make some last-minute changes.
“Five tots weren’t at school that day due to sickness or conflicts coming up,” Wood said. “We were able to have some replacement tots join us for the day, but some classes had collected gifts for a boy and ended up with a girl instead, or vice versa. We had some gifts on hand to switch out though, which came in handy. The original tots still received all of the gift cards collected by the class, but the replacement tots got the classroom experience.”
The tots, their families and their StuCo partners did a sing-a-long with choir, met Santa and made a holiday craft. Then, they headed to their fourth hour parties where the tots opened stocking stuffers, ate snacks and played with the high school students.
“The most rewarding part about Adopt-a-Tot has to be the pure happiness of not just the families involved, but fourth hour classes as well,” Goetz said.
Adopt-a-Tot is also a favorite event among StuCo members.
“I like Adopt-a-Tot because you get to be with little kids that maybe aren’t as fortunate as some kids here at Northwest or some kids in StuCo,” junior StuCo representative Cullan Bower said. “It’s fun to see different walks of life come together and be a community and put their efforts toward bettering the community as a whole.”