Christmas with class

Area children to receive gifts thanks to students’ efforts

December 9, 2016

The Environmental Science Profession class, which raised $1,000 to buy presents for children.

For 24 children in Dunn County, Santa Claus came to town this Christmas dressed as a University of Wisconsin-Stout student.

A total of 50 students, with campuswide support, are making Christmas a little merrier for underprivileged children. The students raised about $1,000 to buy gifts for 24 children in the local Christmas for Kids program affiliated with the United Way of Dunn County.

Christmas for Kids, through the generosity of area residents, businesses and institutions like UW-Stout, will help about 1,000 children from 350 families receive gifts this year, said program director Diane Simon.

The UW-Stout students, from the Environmental Science Profession class taught by Krista James, are glad they could help. “I think everyone felt good about helping others. It was fun to shop for somebody else for a change,” said Ryan Siggelkow, of Crandon, an environmental science major.

From left, Mai Lia Vang, Jake Giersch, Connor Kvendru and Caleb Maynes do their Christmas for Kids shopping.Siggelkow and Mai Lia Vang were two of the project leaders, acting as peer mentors. The students split into 10 groups. They organized fundraisers that included campuswide office donation envelopes, bake sales and GoFundMe online accounts.

Fellow students, faculty and staff contributed.

In the seven years James’ classes have been involved with Christmas for Kids, the $1,000 raised to help 24 children is a class record.

The student donations support UW-Stout’s Holiday Giving Tree project, in which other students, faculty and staff also donate to Christmas for Kids. The Holiday Giving Tree is in its 24th year.

“Being able to provide toys for less fortunate children made my team very happy. Everyone was in high spirits,” said Vang, of Eau Claire, also an environmental science major.

After students raised the money, they went to Walmart in Menomonie to buy gifts for specific children on the list.

From left, Ryan Siggelkow, Nick Dacon, Nate Emerson and Cole Yohnke shop for children on their Christmas for Kids list.My group consisted of four guys, and we were tasked to purchase toys for two little sisters. One was 12 years old, and the other was 5 years old. They asked for makeup, ‘girlie things,’ and art supplies. With a little help from some friends, we were able to cross those off their Christmas lists,” Siggelkow said.

James, director of the environmental science Bachelor of Science program, involves her students in Christmas for Kids as part of a class section on inclusive excellence. They discuss issues related to justice, such as personal biases and diversity.

“I thought it would be important to select a service project that helped people within our community,” James said.

“Professor James really showed a lot of enthusiasm when she presented this fundraising effort to our class,” Siggelkow said. “That passion really resonated with all of the students.”

The fundraising project helped drive home the lesson that being involved and giving back can improve the quality of life in a community, James said.

“This project really helped us use the skills that we learned about,” Vang said.

“UW-Stout students are setting the example by paying it forward,” Siggelkow added. “This kind of effort shows the community that if struggling college kids can take the initiative and time to help others, then they can too.”

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Photos

Top: The Environmental Science Profession class, which raised $1,000 to buy presents for children.

Middle: From left, Mai Lia Vang, Jake Giersch, Connor Kvendru and Caleb Maynes do their Christmas for Kids shopping.

Bottom: From left, Ryan Siggelkow, Nick Dacon, Nate Emerson and Cole Yohnke shop for children on their Christmas for Kids list.