Holiday joy abounds at Ursinus College event
by Hillary Anderson, PerkiomenValleyPatch
There may have been a monsoon flooding the courtyards of Ursinus College on the first of December, but no one would have guessed that standing in the lower level of the campus' Wismer Center. The first of the month kicked off with a bang by the college's annual Holiday Extravaganza, a program bringing together children from the Norristown community and Ursinus students to celebrate the holiday spirit.
The Extravaganza involves two organizations: America Reads and ACLAMO. Both are programs in which Ursinus students travel to locations around Norristown to tutor and mentor elementary-aged children from the Norristown area. Though the activities of the programs are almost identical, America Reads is a college work-study program, whereas ACLAMO is associated with Ursinus' Bonner Program, which is strictly volunteer-based. Both groups are made up of outstanding Ursinus students enthusiastic about working with children and bettering their communities.
Activities with the children include anything from helping them with their homework and tutoring, to just spending the afternoon playing games.
"I love seeing the smiling faces of adorable children and having them brighten my day," said America Reads member and Ursinus freshman Jennie Kuhn.
This enthusiasm of the Ursinus students, 12 years ago, birthed the Holiday Extravaganza, which was wildly popular and quickly became an annual affair. The event is an exciting experience for everyone involved because it is the only time the Ursinus tutors and mentors are given the opportunity to invite the children with whom they've bonded onto campus.
"We like to bring them to campus and show them how much fun college is," said the Extravaganza's co-coordinator and Ursinus senior Audrey Burger.
Another high point of the program enjoyed by multiple mentors is the chance to get to share the loving and comforting holiday spirit with many of the children who wouldn't otherwise be able to experience it.
"It gives them a Christmas," event co-coordinator and Ursinus senior Jasmine Harris said.
The event itself lasted two hours, each second occupied by creative crafts, fun experiences and delectable delights. The children arrived for dinner and spent some time digging in before moving on to the activity tables. The mentors were ready for the flood of childhood holiday cheer, many assigned to stations, others assigned to groups of children, and many free to provide help where needed.
Groups of children moved from station to station, making beautiful holiday crafts and devouring sugar in mass amounts. Glitter flew through the air as Christmas-red stockings and ornaments were personalized and decorated.
Sprinkles scattered the tables full of cookies, smeared with frosting, and graham cracker crumbs were left behind as gingerbread houses were assembled and decorated with festive gumdrops and delectable icings.
The gingerbread house building was the best station, according to Ursinus freshman and America Reads participant Pearl Steinberg.
"This is where the true creativity happens," she laughed. The Ursinus students were just as stirred by the holiday spirit of the occasion as the kids in attendance.
Smiles were abound, not just among the students partaking in the festivities, but even more dramatically in the Ursinus students and faculty there to facilitate the night.
A leader of the ACLAMO program, Liam Marston, commented on how much he loved working with the kids.
"I want to show them people actually care," he
said. The night was most certainly an explicit demonstration of this love and
caring and an incredible example of the holiday spirit so many so quickly
Click here to view photos of this event.