Teachers and staff, a few dressed in Santa caps, sing a medley of holiday jingles as they dish and pass plates of warm food down the kitchen line and into the hands of smiling, if not bemused, students.
It’s that wonderful time of year when giving thanks is the special of the day, and for these erstwhile young minds, there’s nothing like being treated to the works, the fixings, the dessert and anything in between.
This holiday tradition at Lanier Career Academy is team work personified. While students are the honorees, so to speak, they also help create the reward.
For example, students specializing in culinary and hospitality training assisted in bringing meals to approximately 250 students at Thursday’s annual event.
“It’s a nice way to send them out,” said Jeffrey Jenkins, Lanier Career Academy assistant principal. “A lot of kids don’t get to have a special holiday meal.”
It’s also a reminder of the important role that schools, like churches, businesses and civic groups, play in shaping what it means to be a community.
And so even during the summer breaks and holidays, educational centers remain an anchor for young students and their families.
“We reach out to our families who have needs throughout the year, sharing with them resources for food and other (services),” said Carol Pitts, lead social worker for Hall County Schools.
Schools frequently collaborate with local nonprofits to provide other charity drives while enlisting volunteers and additional partners to keep families connected with support during the holidays.
“We have numerous agencies, churches and individuals that will help with gifts and clothing for students and younger siblings not in school,” Pitts added.
There is also a community resource guide accessible anytime online at the school district website.
For Will Campbell, principal of Fair Street School in Gainesville, knowing that resources are available to students at all times brings some peace of mind, most especially during the hectic holiday season.
On a recent school day, Campbell was scrambling to finish work and get to the airport on time to pick up his mother.
He said he knows work doesn’t stop for parents during the upcoming holiday break, and times can get tight with kids out of school.
So spreading the word about programs like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier — or city and county parks and recreation facilities, libraries and available nonprofit assistance — is just the kind of teaching Campbell believes creates A-plus families now and year-round.
“This is their community,” he said.