Menlo News December 14, 2022

Menlo Advocacy Holiday Gift Drive

Annual partnership with Taft School provides opportunities for students to make an impact in their community

Menlo’s Advocacy program provides students with an opportunity to work with a small group of students and a caring adult to build closer relationships with their peers and to develop programs that emphasize the reciprocal benefit of community partnerships. Each winter, in collaboration with Taft School in Redwood City, Menlo advocacy groups are provided with a family’s holiday wishlist and collaborate to provide the items to support those in need. Students take the lead on this program, including purchasing, wrapping, and delivering the gifts to Taft in time for the holiday season.

“One of the goals of advocacy is to build empathy and connection,” said Upper School Community Engagement Coordinator Ava Petrash. “Menlo’s students are inherently empathetic, especially around issues that resonate with them. Holiday gifts are a core part of their experience as children and they are aware of the inequality around them. As a school, we try to build awareness around these inequalities in the community and get students involved in a way that they can make an impact. When we talk about it in advocacy, they get really excited about the possibility that they can do something to help.”

Each year, after adopting as many as 80 families with tight holiday budgets, Upper School Advocacy Groups gather to wrap their gifts and deliver them to the school. Classrooms become gift-giving celebrations emphasizing the importance of students contributing to causes greater than themselves.

“The idea that as a kid you might not receive gifts for Christmas—and that it’s a challenge for some parents at a school that is only a few miles from campus—is something our students want to learn more about,” added Petrash. “They’re interested in learning why that is true and the gift drive becomes a meaningful experience that inspires them.”