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Ambassadors bring holiday cheer at Vina

Thanks to the Ambassadors at Vina High School, the Salvation Army has nearly 400 canned and non-perishable food items to give to those in need this holiday season.

The Ambassadors, a group of ten fifth and sixth graders at Vina, represent a new program organized by sponsors Leigh Burks and Jamie Payne. These students “were chosen to represent our school as leaders,” Burks said.

“I feel like the value in the program is to develop leaders in our school community,” Burks said. “We want to teach the students how to become leaders and be proud of our school. We hope the program also gives the students school pride and more school spirit.”

Students are selected through a combination of application, teacher recommendation, grades and behavior and parent consent.

“They hand out programs at assemblies or programs that we have at Vina,” Burks said. “They were the students that welcomed people to the Veterans Day program in November. They make announcements over the intercom. We try to give them as many opportunities as possible to have leadership roles.”

In their most recent leadership endeavors, the students did fundraisers to collect money to benefit needy children and held a food drive for the Salvation Army.

The money – more than $800 – was designated to purchase clothes and toys for children in need.

“Jamie Payne and I … took them at the end of November to Walmart to purchase the items for these children,” Burks said. “They budgeted their money and then bought the items and then came back to school and wrapped the gifts for the children. We were so proud of what a great job they did.”

In the Salvation Army food drive, Ambassadors collected 393 cans and non-perishable items. “I was surprised because I thought maybe no one would send in any,” said fifth grader Keyara Umfress. “I was excited because I didn’t think we would get that many cans; I thought we would only get a few.”

Umfress said she wanted to join the Ambassadors because “I thought it would be fun, and I like helping people … I want everyone to be happy.” Fellow Ambassador Kaley Attaway, fifth grade, had similar thoughts. “I wanted to help kids. I really wanted to help them and get them food for Christmas and help them have good Christmas presents,” she said.

Burks said the students have shown great energy, excitement and leadership in this first year of the program’s existence.

“They have worked so hard and shown a lot of school pride,” she said. “The students have shown such joy giving to someone in need at this time of year. Anything we ask of these students, they never complain. They are willing to work.”

“We are so proud of the Ambassadors,” Payne echoed. “They have set a great example for other students in our school. Watching them give their time and use their talents to help out other people in our community and other places has been such a blessing to us.”

Burks said the Ambassadors are already looking forward to their next project: raising money for St. Jude in the spring.

Ambassadors are (sixth graders) Madelyn Humphres, Hunter Griffith, Brady Hardin, Elizabeth Smith, LaDava Davis, (fifth graders) Kaley Attaway, Keyara Umfress, Faith Haas, Cheyenne Davidson and Autumn Chandler.