It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but for many people, the financial struggles they face all year long still continue during this season.
One 8th Grade student at Juniata Park Academy sees that struggle with both personal knowledge and on the streets of her neighborhood.
Alayja Wingfield has a big heart, and she’s always helped people that she sees in need. She learned from her Grandmother and Mother that she should be compassionate and helpful to others. Calling these two special women “really humble,” she told the Juniata News last week that they taught her to give to those less fortunate.
“I usually donate to people that are less fortunate,” said Alayja. “When I was younger, I used to go make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and give them out to the homeless at Wawa.”
Her compassion is genuine. She explained that it upsets her that she can’t always help the people that she sees that are in need.
Last month, Alayja decided to ask Juniata Park Academy’s Principal, Marisol Rivera Rodriguez, if she could get permission to lead a collection of items for people in need. The permission was granted, and “The Joy Drive” began!
“I just wanted people to be able to have something, so people know that there’s somebody out there that’s caring for them, that they’re not alone,” she continued. “There is somebody that cares for them.”
When Alayja’s friends heard what she wanted to do, they just laughed. “I’m so goofy, so they didn’t think that I could be able to do something like this,” she said, smiling. “But they really don’t know me from outside of school.”
The leadership that she has exhibited impressed Ms. McCray, Teacher Leader. “This is the first time that an actual student has proposed and organized something of this magnitude to collect and donate to others in our community,” said Ms. McCray.
Although the students have participated in many good deeds, such as collecting clothing and food for those in need, and helping with hurricane relief in Texas and Puerto Rico, those were always led by the school staff.
“It feels like we’re doing a good job here at JPA,” said Ms. McCray. “We’re not just raising and growing the children academically, but we’re also helping to grow them as productive, successful citizens in our community.”
McCray couldn’t say enough good things about Alayja. She said that Alayja is showing other students that their voices do matter. “If you put your thoughts and your opinions into action, great things can happen.”
Alayja loves to read in her spare time. “My favorite book is Matilda. I could read that over and over and over again!”
When her collection drive ends today, there will be plenty of books and toys going to those less fortunate, thanks to Alayja’s initiative and the generosity of JPA students.
“These are the kind of students that you know are going to do something great,” said Ms. McCray. “They’re going to grow up and they’re going to be somebody who initiates change.”
Ms. McCray knows Alayja is one such student.