WAUNAKEE — The holidays will be a bit merrier for some students at Clarke Street School in Milwaukee because of the gifts they received from Waunakee Intermediate School students.
Sixth graders in Waunakee purchased and wrapped toys and books for a class of 3- and 4-year-olds and two kindergarten classes on the north side of Milwaukee.
In the past, a videotape of the Milwaukee students opening their gifts was later shown to the Waunakee students so they could see the reactions. This year, in addition to videotaping, the schools set up Skype equipment so the students could interact with each other.
“They can see physically how they’ve impacted someone,” said organizer Kerry Lozano, a Waunakee sixth grade teacher. “That’s why I really enjoy doing this.”
Jaydalin Ruff, 11, enjoyed watching the two students who received gifts from her and Julia Sylvester, 11, who gave crayons and coloring books, stuffed animals and books, including one about a zoo.
“He was really happy and his smile was really big,” Jaydalin said about one recipient.
Lozano was a teacher at Clarke Street School before getting hired in Waunakee, where her students were participating in a secret Santa exchange with each other. But when she saw some students were disappointed in their gifts she talked to them ending that practice and instead giving gifts to the Milwaukee students.
Lozano and Amy Frank, another sixth grade teacher, took personal days to take the gifts to Milwaukee last week.
Last year, the Waunakee students wrote a letter to a parent of a sixth grader, Pat McGowan, president of University Bookstore, whose company then donated the equipment to facilitate the Skype exchange. Lozano hopes it will allow the sixth grade students to read with the younger Milwaukee students in the future.
Another sixth grade teacher, Tammy Miller, enjoyed watching her student, Will Knatz, 11, wrap his gifts after he gave much thought into what he purchased. He also enclosed items like a toothbrush and some small toys he got from his dentist.
“When he wrapped that gift, you could just see all the love pouring into it,” Miller said.
Reed Mohlman, 12, said he got a set of Hot Wheels cars for his recipient because that way the boy receiving them would have more than one thing to play with. Reed said the experience was better than taking part in a secret Santa exchange.
“To us, it is probably barely anything, but to him it was his whole Christmas,” Reed said.