Students pack food boxes for families

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 23, 2010

NATCHEZ — No matter what a family’s financial situation looks like, everyone deserves to have a good Christmas, Natchez High junior Asia Holloway said.

Holloway and approximately 39 other students at her school recently filled 35 boxes with cranberry sauce, stuffing, turkey and all the other fixings for the big day.

She said she hopes the gift of goodies will brighten the holidays of the families that receive them, families who may have gone this year without a holiday food spread.

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Holloway participated in the Christmas food basket program through her elective with Jobs for Mississippi Graduates, which is also a private, nonprofit group.

The members of JMG worked two months to get the baskets to the hands of the families chosen by guidance counselors as those who could use them the most. After the students in her elective sponsored a food drive, sold raffle tickets, decorated the boxes and filled them, Holloway said the work was well worth the reward.

She said it feels good knowing 35 families, especially families with children, have a guaranteed meal for the holidays.

“Even if (the children) don’t have a toy, they’re going to have a hot meal,” Holloway said.

Community service is one area on which JMG concentrates in its mission to prevent high school dropouts and prepare Mississippi students for the job market.

The program job specialist and elective teacher, Linda Bowers, said community service helps students shape a successful future because it gives them something to add to their resumes, first of all.

Community service also allows students to become productive citizens and makes them aware of the community’s people and problems. In addition, the networking involved in community service may open doors to job opportunities, and helping strangers teaches students to overcome communication barriers.

“It lets the community know that student is willing to do something for someone else,” Bowers said.

Holloway, who has much enthusiasm for her JMG elective class, said she can see why community service helps her become a better job candidate in the future.

“It helps you become well-rounded,” she said.

Holloway is also vice president and community service coordinator of the junior class.

Bowers said she is very proud of the students who went through the effort put together the baskets.

“It was really four projects in one,” she said.

Holloway said she sold 40 lottery tickets instead of the individual goal of 20, but that was mostly because her mother purchased the first 20 because she wanted to win a barbecue grill, which was just one of many items donated by a number of local businesses.

Bowers said JMG is the state’s version of the national program, Jobs for America’s Graduates, which aims to provide resources to mostly high school students that might be at risk of dropping out of school because of financial or family situations. Bowers said students who are not asked to join the program can also participate by signing up for the elective.

Bowers said preventing students from dropping out is very important because getting a GED tends to be much more difficult for adults who are no longer in school.

Holloway said she likes that the class teaches her practical skills she can apply to the real world, such as how to prepare a resume, handle people’s attitudes and act in an interview.

“It’s a real-life class that answers the (often asked) question, ‘How is this going to help me later in life?’” Holloway said.

The students raised just under $400 from the raffle, which purchased the turkeys and other food items that weren’t collected during the food drive.

The leftover items from the food drive were donated to the Children’s Home and Southern Style Catering Inc. for the company’s holiday charity event.

Holloway said she hopes to one day own her own business, but she will be sure to give back to the community when that day comes.

“(Bowers) says you have got to be humble, because no matter how well you are doing there is always somebody who needs help.”

Holloway is the daughter of Carmen Holloway and Douglas Williams.