Spreading joy: Alta High students provide warm pajamas to elementary studentsFeb 09, 2024 12:48PM ● By Julie Slama
After performing a skit, Alta High students give Midvale Elementary students high-fives and candy canes before they head back to their classrooms to get pajamas. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Hundreds of Midvale Elementary students donned their pajamas one wintry Tuesday morning for the school’s Polar Express Day. Since then, some students have worn them again to school for a class pajama reward day—and cozied up in them at night too.
Thanks to Alta High students, every student at Midvale Elementary received a pair of pajamas along with two pairs of warm socks. The students brought enough pajamas that they also were able to provide them to 350 Copperview Elementary students as well as share some with local shelters. In total, about 1,500 pajamas were distributed, said Alta High senior Raehil Mason.
Giving pajamas to each student was mind-blowing, said Midvale Elementary teacher Sarah Gonsur.
“This is amazing for our students,” she said. “I’ve had some kids tell me, ‘I don’t have pajamas at home’ when they’ve earned a pajama day. How special is that? Now they’ll have these pajamas that other students got for them to wear. It’s just so thoughtful and caring.”
Those elementary students weren’t the only ones with smiles on their faces, said Alta High teacher Shaley Louder, who advises several student groups.
“My kids are as happy as the elementary students,” she said. “They’re helping other people, and I love that. I’m grateful for the overwhelming support from our Alta community wanting to donate.”
The pajama drive started when Mason talked to her mother, Kristin, about doing a service project since she is an officer in her school’s chapter of National Honors Society. The two brainstormed and decided there was a need for pajamas at Midvale Elementary, where Kristin Mason taught. It resonated with Mason, snice pajamas are a gift she and her sister, Shaye, receive each year from their family for the holidays.
With the support of Louder and Alta High administration, the Mason family sought the input of Heidi Sanger, Midvale Elementary’s Title I coordinator. Sanger provided information to share with Mason’s Alta classmates about the school with its vibrant, diverse population and its academic culture that offers Spanish dual immersion.
The letter pointed out that “As a community school, we work together with various public and private partners to provide coordinated academic, social, mental and physical, physical and vocational supports for students, families and the community. We know that the time around the traditional December holidays can be a time of joy, but also of stress for children and their families, particularly when meeting basic needs is a daily consideration for many families, bringing a little bit of comfort and warmth to students can make a dark and cold month much brighter.”
Sanger said having a new pair of pajamas “will wrap our students up in the love of community sending a positive note of encouragement from the big kids will also go a long way in their path to growth in their future.”
At Alta, Mason and Louder gathered National Honor Society students, who regularly provide service to the community, to lead the charge. They got help from the Peer Leadership Team, which teaches fifth graders positive peer refusal skills and encourages them to make better decisions, and the student DECA business chapter, which is familiar with planning and marketing events.
“The second that it was pitched to these students, the kids were all over it and ran with it,” Louder said.
In October, each advisory, or homeroom class, team, club, organization and group were emailed asking to sponsor a Midvale Elementary class. Once on board, they were given a list of sizes of pajamas needed, which Midvale Elementary staff provided.
“We said to email us back if you’d like to be a part of this,” Mason said. “It took off. I think every team and group got pajamas, wrapped, delivered or helped in some way.”
During this time, Kristin Mason remembers her girls deciding that wasn’t enough.
“They said, ‘Mom, let’s go get more for the kids,’” she said. “So several nights, my girls sat outside of Sam’s Club (in South Jordan) with signs saying they were gathering pajamas for children. We probably got 150 pairs from shoppers there. Then, they got our neighborhood involved.”
Mason said they wanted to help as many youngsters as possible.
“I really want everyone to have a happy holiday, because I’ve always been blessed,” she said. “I expected my friends and people I know to support this, but a whole bunch of people at Sam’s Club gave, and it was amazing to see how generous they were.”
Her younger sister helped each step of the way.
“I just love giving things to people who are in need,” Shaye said. “With everything that I have, I wanted to give to them, to share this tradition that we’ve had.”
Alta High senior Danika Miller not only serves as Alta’s PLT president but also in the seminary council presidency.
“We wanted to get everyone involved and make this as special as possible for them, so the seminary donated fuzzy socks,” she said. “We got about 3,000 pairs of socks, so each kid had at least two pairs of socks. Everyone helped get pajamas because we didn’t want to be a single student left without a pair of pajamas. The drive was opened to our community, and our community is super willing to give, so we were we able to get enough pajamas for each child, then we had extra to share with the community.”
The pairs of pajamas were donated by Nov. 15, and many student clubs came together to wrap them. At the Mason house, family and friends held a wrapping party multiple nights for the 750 pairs of pajamas they had gathered.
Alta students’ efforts didn’t stop there. For each grade level, PLT performed a skit with songs and jokes about kindness, tying it into the season.
“They tied the kindness into the holidays around the character Jingles and shared when you’re having a bad day, it can affect everyone, but we can make everyone’s day better by doing some simple things like singing, dancing and telling jokes,” Louder said. “I love that they incorporated kindness and then gave them that as a gift as well.”
Afterward, other Alta students, including two members from each sports team, would deliver pajamas to the elementary students’ classrooms, Mason said.
“We’d tell them Jingles and his friends got you guys gifts, and they were all super excited,” she said. “When we handed them their gifts, they were appreciative. They would open the pajamas, and they had these huge grins and gave us hugs. It was cool.”
Shaye said many of them put them on over their clothes.
“It was fun to see that they were so excited,” she said.
Their mom said it was fun to see a family tradition be shared with the school.
“It’s going to be fun because I will be here when all the kids wear their pajamas to school,” she said. “What started as a school project kept growing to another school and to a shelter. I loved watching my girls work together to bring their vision into a reality.”
Sanger said she appreciated what the Alta students shared.
“Our kids loved the program,” she said. “It was interactive, and the Alta students brought a fun energy to the school; they hit it out of the park. And it was amazing to see the high school kids rushing from room to room just trying to make sure that each kid got what the pajamas that fit and liked.”
Alta High Principal Ken Rowley also had a smile on his face.
“All you have to do is look at the looks on the Midvale kids’ faces and then look at the looks on the Alta students’ faces, and it’s the same look,” he said. “It’s joy and happiness in its purest form.” λ