New Brunswick teacher strives for her students to have happy holiday despite pandemic
A New Brunswick teacher did not let the pandemic stop her from continuing her mission to ensure that every one of her students has a happy holiday season.
This year, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts teacher Jennifer Olawski was determined to make her "Reason for the Season" event happen once again - and it was bigger than ever.
Olawski brings holiday cheer to hundreds of students each year with the event.
"There's no better view than seeing all these kids so happy and so grateful," Olawski said.
Olawski came up with the idea to give every one of her students a holiday gift five years ago in Paterson, when one of her students said that she had never received a Christmas present.
Olawski has carried out the mission every year since. But as she geared up for the 2020 fundraiser during the pandemic, she was hesitant.
"This year there might have been that one second of people in my ear saying ‘it's not possible this year Jen, there's too many issues,’" Olawski said.
But she didn't let that stop her.
Olawski surpassed her fundraising goal by more than $5,000.
"My goal was $10,000, and the fact that we surpassed it during a pandemic, blew my mind and it really touched my heart because it just goes to show that the community cares about the students, and people are starting to really focus on what's important,” Olawski said.
“Ms. O,” as the students call her, was able to give presents such as headphones and Crayola marker sets to her 800 students in grades K through eight. And although they couldn't have the usual big assembly to hand out the gifts, the students were able to pick them up last Wednesday and Saturday at staggered times.
"I'd see them smiling under their little masks, and they would get their gifts and they would leave," Olawski recalled.
And as for next year, she said the event is going to be even bigger and better.