By Marlana Ward
Students at Johnson County Middle School (JCMS) got into the Christmas spirit a little early thanks to generous sponsors and the JCMS Care Club. The school’s gym was transformed into a Christmas shopping village with students shopping amidst festive decorations and music to help set the giving spirit.
The CARE (Creating Acts of Random Kindness Everywhere) Club at JCMS was founded by Jessica Muncy, school counselor, as a way to let students get much needed items by putting forth extra effort and earning the goods themselves. As Muncy would see students passing in the hallways, she would notice that some needed shoes, clothes, school supplies, and other things that while some kids would take for granted, could be a big deal for others. “We tend to need something but don’t want to be embarrassed,” Muncy explained. “I was seeing kids with soles coming off their shoes or without jackets and wondered how I could make the program cool.” Rather than simply giving the students a hand-out, which could be embarrassing for some, Muncy came up with an idea that would help the whole school while letting kids earn goods for themselves.
The idea Muncy developed became the CARE Club Store which has been nicknamed “TheBomb.com“ by students. The store, which is located within the JCMS Media Center, is stocked with various clothing items, toiletries, school supplies, and other small goods that a young teen might need for school. The store only accepts Longhorn Bucks that are awarded to students for a variety of achievements or good deeds. Longhorn Bucks may be given for attendance, grades, or for being observed doing a good deed for another student or staff. Each student carries a register in which teachers may write “deposits” when a student is found deserving of the bucks. Bucks can also be lost if a student engages in behavior which results in disciplinary action.
In November, CARE received a delivery of goods from Dollar General Stores to use in their store. These items were toys and things that might be intended for a younger group than the JCMS student body. Muncy took inspiration from the donation and began plans to set up a small Christmas shopping day for the students to use their Longhorn Bucks to purchase gifts for family members that could be a luxury that some would not be able to afford otherwise. JCMS Principal Edna Miller saw potential in the idea and encouraged Muncy to expand the idea and make a larger event for the student body utilizing the school’s gym.
The CARE club wanted to make the event as successful and memorable as they could for the students so Muncy set out to seek more donations for the day. Toys R Us came through in a big way with the donation of tablets, video games, sports equipment along with several other items that any kid would love to have on Christmas morning. Walmart, Big Lots, and Dollar General also donated more great items to JCMS and soon the tables were filling up for the kids to peruse and use their earnings towards.
The staff at JCMS were as excited for the event as the students. Many dressed in Christmas themed attire and excitedly helped the kids as they shopped. Muncy added, “For some kids, this may be the only Christmas shopping they get to do.”
Items were available at a variety of prices. Clothes, toiletries, and small novelty items cost the least and larger items were available for those who had put forth extra effort to earn and save Longhorn Bucks. The largest, most desirable items such as the tablets and video games were set up in a raffle-style manner to make sure every student had a chance to win the high-demand electronics. For just a few bucks, a student’s name could go into a drawing that was awarded at the end of the school day.
Seeing students’ eyes light up as they entered the gym and saw the items available for the first time brought great joy to everyone involved in the day. It is hoped that word of the program will spread a second event can be held for the hard-working students at JCMS before Christmas break so they can earn additional gifts for friends and family.
Without the generosity of the community and the stores from around the area, an event of this type would be impossible for these students. Muncy explained the impact of this kindness: “With so much pain and negativity happening, it’s nice to start off the Christmas season with a good spirit.” It is easy to get discouraged by the continuous strife in the news today. By choosing to focus on love and giving, these teenagers are learning to be a positive influence on the world around them.
By rewarding their actions and efforts, students are learning responsibility and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from giving your best and being a blessing to others. The kindness shown by the community and from businesses to these kids will ripple throughout the families of the young students as they take what they learn about giving and express that sentiment beyond the walls of JCMS. Any person, business, or organization wishing to donate toward the CARE club program’s Christmas initiative may contact Jessica Muncy at Johnson County Middle School.