Both the Upper and Lower schools, in addition to faculty, staff, administrators and parents, have embraced the holiday spirit of giving in a variety of ways.
The Upper School’s annual Outreach Campaign highlighted this year’s efforts with students purchasing gifts for those in need through Bridges Outreach LLC, Babyland Family Services, Linden Housing and New Community Harmony House.
“This being my first year at Oak Knoll, I am astounded by how well the students embody the saying of our founder, Cornelia Connelly: ‘Generosity, generosity, generosity must be the beginning and ending of our life,’” said Michele Calamari, campus minister and Upper School theology teacher.
Oak Knoll’s performing artists also gave back through their gifts as Ensemble’s annual “Singing for Service” caroling tour included a performance at the Juniper Village at Chatham assisted-living facility, as well as St. Teresa of Avila and New Providence Auxiliary.
Another annual staple involved a group of eighth graders dancing the night away with pediatric patients and their families at the annual Valerie Fund Holiday Party. Creative Arts Chair Will Cardell and Mary Margaret Schroeder ’20 joined the students and wrote partygoers’ names in calligraphy to bring Christmas cheer.
In addition to these efforts, Upper School students continued long-standing service traditions by supporting Bridges Outreach LLC, and the Market Street Mission.
Another tradition of Christmas at the Upper School was students participating in the Advent Angel program, which is sponsored by Oak Knoll’s Campus Ministry and administered through religion and theology classes. Participating students chose a name of a classmate and anonymously wrote secret notes, performed acts of kindness, gave candy and donated to one of two charities on the classmate’s behalf – either to the Casa Cornelia Law Center or the Catholic Charities of the Newark Archdiocese.
In all, the angels raised nearly $1,400 for the Center and Catholic Charities.
As part of their annual food drive benefitting families at Sacred Heart School in Jersey City, Lower School students donated food items to put together Christmas meal baskets for 14 families.
Similar efforts were taken on by fourth, fifth and sixth graders, along with our kindergarteners, who donated bagged lunches to St. Josephs Parish in Jersey City on December 13 and shortly after Thanksgiving.
In addition, fifth- and sixth-grade students assembled boxes in support of Operation Christmas Child during Service Day. Using proceeds from a pending dress down day in November for shipping, the boxes contained a variety of items, including encouraging letters written by the students. Each year, through the organization, Oak Knoll students deliver shoeboxes filled with gifts to children in need throughout the world.
Sixth graders also organized goodie bags as part of the annual outreach to those being treated at Overlook Medical Center, while fourth graders crafted 40 baby blankets to benefit the Christ Child Society.
Another Lower School holiday tradition continued this year as the third graders brought back the Kindness Campaign, in which the students - over the course of 12 days - led the school with a dozen random acts of kindness.
“It is such a wonderful feeling to see so many students and staff modeling the very best by taking the time to be kind to one another,” said Dr. Michele Dahl, Lower School religion coordinator. “It is an inspiration to me and a reminder that we can always do a little more, and that little more will make a difference. Our founder, Cornelia Connelly, continues to guide us with her wisdom as she said, ‘Be yourself only make that self all that God wants it to be.’”