by Alison Standish
10 January 2018
NEHS students wrote and designed letters from Santa Claus that were delivered to children of the Oswego East community. “They’re very personalized so it makes [the children] believe that Santa is really watching them and know something about them. A lot of them have candy canes and things like that attached which is kind of fun,” NEHS Sponsor Tammy DiPrima said. Photo by Alison Standish.
It’s Christmas morning. As a young elementary school student, it’s the day you’ve been waiting for since December 26th of last year.
The freshly fallen snow is sparkling in the early morning light as you race downstairs to join the rest of your family under the tree, readily prepared to tear open the brightly wrapped gifts you’ve been staring at longingly for the past week. The smell of hot chocolate, pine needles, and cinnamon rolls is in the air as you jump up and down in your favorite pajamas. Your mom and dad smile and laugh while they hand you a festively decorated letter. You gaze over it with excited eyes and suddenly your heart skips a beat.
It’s from Santa.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas day, the National English Honor Society students were as busy as the elves in Santa’s workshop, writing letters under Santa’s name to the staff members’ children. The project, called the NEHS Letters from Santa Project, was an effort to bring Santa’s magic and joy alive for young children on Christmas morning.
Prior to winter break, Oswego East teachers and staff members were given a short questionnaire to fill out for their children who would receive the letters. The information was then used in the letters to create a personalized message from “Santa himself” for the kids.
“I think it’s just really cute and it’s just the belief in Santa. When you open it up it’s just something fun and something to look forward to, you wake up on Christmas morning and you have your gifts and then you actually have a letter from Santa himself. I think it’s nice,” NEHS President Debbie Das said.
The project was created by NEHS Sponsor Tammy DiPrima along with Das and the rest of the NEHS board.
“It came up in a brainstorming session and one of the kids thought it would be cute and somebody added on and we all kind of pitched in with what we envisioned it to be. It just kind of happened as a result of all the brainstorming,” DiPrima said.
“On Christmas morning, a kid’s going to have a letter that’s technically from you and it’s just really collaborative and it’s really sweet and you just get to have a big impact on their lives in a way.”
— NEHS President Debbie Das
From there, the idea grew into a school-wide project, with the staff members requesting letters for their kids and the NEHS students writing them. The process was straightforward, with teachers answering questions about their kids and highschool students incorporating that information into a cohesive letter, written in Santa’s “voice.”
“We just put out a note to teachers through email and through Wolf Weekly and they filled out a google form that just gave a bunch of information about their kids, like their name and age, gender, something Santa would be proud of, something Santa would want them to work on, and just any details about their family or their interests that Santa might want to mention,” DiPrima said.
THE GIFT OF GIVING
The Santa letters were enjoyable for the students to write, functioning as a creative outlet and as a way to connect with teachers, according to Debbie Das.
“I’ve heard a lot of feedback from a lot of students. They said they’ve really enjoyed doing this. It’s really creative, who doesn’t enjoy being santa for a day?” Das said. “And I think it’s really creative, the teachers can connect with their students in a way because [the students] can tell [their] teachers like “oh I wrote your kid’s letter.””
In addition to being a fun project for the highschool students, the letters were also enjoyable for parents such as Oswego East teacher Michael Heath, whose kids were on the receiving end of some of the letters.
“I think it’s awesome, I wish that more people knew about it,” Heath said. “I heard about it through emails and through being a staff member but I know that it’s a really cool thing for people to, you know, get that holiday spirit going and I know my kids are gonna love it.”
Das said that the letters were a great way to make an impact on the kids who would read them.
“On Christmas morning, a kid’s going to have a letter that’s technically from you and it’s just really collaborative and it’s really sweet and you just get to have a big impact on their lives in a way,” Das said.
DiPrima added that the NEHS Letters from Santa project was not only fun and sweet, but also different and interesting. It also functioned as a good holiday gift-planning tool for the parents.
“I just think they’re super cute. And it’s beneficial for the parents who don’t have to prepare something. It’s kind of fun and something different and I think it’ll bring joy to the kids to see a letter from Santa that somehow he knows things about them,” DiPrima said.
DiPrima also said that the NEHS students were getting valuable practice in creative writing by participating in the project, through writing from another perspective as well as by catering to a specific audience.
“It’s creative writing, and they have to be aware of their audience because [they’re] babies up to twelve year old kids. And they have to be aware of voice because they’re supposed to be Santa,” DiPrima said. “And they have to follow some guidelines because the parents have given them some information that they want them to work into the letter but also kind of make it all work and kind of give it their own flair so there’s a lot of creative thinking and writing that goes into doing it.”
But despite being a learning experience for English students, the project overall was an effective way of keeping the holiday spirit alive for everyone involved.
“I think it’s fun, not only for my kids on the receiving end, you know, receiving that and to keep that idea alive and that spirit alive but also [for] the people putting the letters together like knowing that what they’re doing is actually going to mean something to the person receiving it instead of just doing an assignment. It’ll actually have some serious meaning for my kids, so I’m looking forward to that,” Heath said in the days leading up to winter break.
Alison Standish is a student journalist for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL