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Junior Mountaineer Program Helps Bring a Joyful Christmas to Elementary Students

Paige Roberts
Graduate Assistant, Office of University Marketing & Communications

Sergeant Rebecca Carrado and Emily Buck

Sergeant Rebecca Carrado, school resource office at Lincoln Elementary, and Emily Buck, C'22, Criminal Justice Student Association president, with the gifts collected through the Junior Mountaineer Program's Christmas gift drive.

Forty students at Lincoln Elementary in Frederick, Maryland, had a joyful and bountiful Christmas morning made possible by the Junior Mountaineer Program, coordinated by the Criminal Justice Student Association (CJSA) and Lincoln staff members. The program, which began in September 2021, pairs Mount students as mentors of Lincoln students. CJSA President Buck, C'22, aided by Lincoln staff members, organized a Christmas gift drive to bring the magic of the holidays to children who might not have had many gifts to open otherwise.

Generous donors made the effort possible. Buck recalls her inboxes bursting with messages from enthusiastic people eager to participate after she worked with Joe Vince, CJSA faculty advisor, to send an email to the Mount community and posted to Facebook about the initiative. She then organized a spreadsheet that listed all of the willing participants and got in touch with Heather Quill, Lincoln Elementary principal, and Sergeant Rebecca Carrado, school resource officer.

The team created a wish list form for the students’ families, which included questions about the child’s favorite sport, favorite TV or movie character, clothing sizes and a space to list the toys they wanted. Buck then thoughtfully matched donors to the students in an effort to find the best fit for each child and sent the corresponding wish list to each donor. After collecting the donated gifts on Dec. 17, she spent the weekend with her roommates Haley Buser, C’22, and Anna Charocopos, C’22 wrapping the load of gifts.

With two carloads of gifts, Buck arrived at Lincoln on Dec. 20, where Sgt. Carrado assisted her in organizing the heap. Parents collected their child’s pile of goodies the following night in preparation for Christmas Eve, ensuring a merry surprise for each kid. Buck hopes to hold the gift drive again so that the CJSA can continue to spread joy to children from low-income homes at Lincoln Elementary through the Junior Mountaineer Program.

The mentorship program’s success is evident throughout the school year. The Lincoln students’ relationship with their Mount mentor aids them in coming to school ready to learn, which sets them up to better their quality of life in their future. “The program has been very successful with Mount students providing emotional support, homework assistance and listening to the difficulties that they may be experiencing in their life,” Buck said. She explained that having a mentor in their life outside of their family encourages the students “to realize that their situations do not define who they are or what they can accomplish in their life,” as they are intelligent, special and uniquely capable. Buck is continuing the work of the previous CJSA president Anna Charocopos, who graduated in December 2021.

Recognizing that the holidays are a challenging time for many families that struggle to make ends meet, Buck believes “while we cannot necessarily change what happens to them in their life, we can certainly help change how they perceive these situations.” The magic of one Christmas gift can be that change agent.

Paige Roberts
Graduate Assistant, Office of University Marketing & Communications