Operation Student Santas

​November & December 2007

Irene Cato and Rayna Cato (student), Leonardtown Elementary School,

St. Mary’s County

Operation Student Santas was the idea of student Rayna Cato. When her father’s tour got extended in Iraq and he’d miss Christmas at home, she decided to send the holiday to him and his unit. She told her friends and quickly a group of 5th graders from Leonardtown Elementary School became Operation Student Santas.

Best Practice 1: What recognized community need was met by your project (e.g. health, education, environmental or public safety need)?

Operation Student Santas demonstrated a show of community support to troops in Iraq. The project addressed mental health needs of soldiers and also supported public safety efforts.

Rayna Cato’s father, who was deployed to Iraq, had his tour extended making him miss Christmas at home. Rayna decided to send Christmas cheer to him and his entire unit. Helicopter Support Combat Unit HC-4 and its crew were helped by this project.

Best Practice 2: How was the project connected to school curriculum (e.g. what course outcomes were met and/or how did the project reinforce or enhance student academic learning)?

Groups met with the principal and presented a letter with a proposal to coordinator with all classes of the school. Students in the group paired up and went from class to class asking for cards, letters, and decorations to send to the squadron. In all, the classes contributed about 600 letters. In addition, a video of the project and progress was created.

Best Practice 3: How did you reflect on your experience throughout the project?

A video of the project recorded the activities conducted during the time period of the project.

Best Practice 4: How did students take leadership roles and take responsibility for the success of the project? 

This was a student created project. Students grouped up to be responsible for notifying each class of the requests and to follow up on the completed tasks.

Best Practice 5: What community partners did you work with on this project (e.g. non-profits, civic organizations, business that provided donations, etc.)?

The Leonardtown Volunteer Rescue Squad donated several comfort items for the packages that were sent overseas by the students.

Best Practice 6: How did you prepare and plan ahead for the project?

The students wrote out a plan with a deadline and with check off dates for certain items. Everything went as scheduled.

Best Practice 7: What knowledge and skills did students develop through this project?

The students learned how to write a proposal, carried out a project to benefit more than 600 individuals, coordinated the collection of over 600 cards, letters, and decorations, and packaged all the items for shipment overseas. Teamwork was the key and all the students in Operation Student Santas became leaders.