Dec. 15, 2017

Bags of Cheer 2017

BREAK TIME — Students from Eleanor Skillen School 34 took a break from delivering Bags of Cheer while at tech company Sigstr. Below, bags dropped of at local businesses and with holiday shopping were inscribed with a holiday message. A Sigstr employee scores one of the holiday bags.

By Mel Ullrich

Achiever Freelance Writer

Their bright smiles and excited giggles automatically bring cheer wherever they go. But on Wednesday, Dec. 13, students from Eleanor Skillen School 34 sprinkled a little extra joy when they delivered “Bags of Cheer” to Indianapolis businesses and holiday shoppers.

Bags of Cheer2

The bags, decorated by sixth-grade students, were filled with items made by pupils in other grade levels, including “reindeer food,” dog bones, gift tags, ornaments, snowflakes, and a hot chocolate treat.

This is the second year Skillen students distributed Bags of Cheer, and this year every student had a chance to participate on delivery day. “Last year, we took one class per grade level,” said fourth-grade teacher Julie Beaty. “The program was so successful that we wanted to expand it to the entire school.”

Beaty brought the Bags of Cheer concept to the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) Committee last year. PBIS focuses on improving school environments by setting positive expectations and examples for students and staff.

“Our school vision is to ‘Transform Lives,’ and our passionate team and supportive administration believe this initiative aligns with that vision,” said Beaty.

Assistant Principal Brandi Zollman agrees. “Our slogan is the ‘Kindest School in Town,’ and we work all year to prove that,” she said. “This outreach effort exemplifies that goal and helps us put words into action.”

In total, students delivered 500 bags to destinations that included businesses on Monument Circle, the Central Library, community centers, and the Garfield Park Library.

Bags of Cheer

“Every child gave a bag as a random act of kindness,” said Beaty. “We believe it is powerful for our children to give without receiving and for them to feel they have something important to give.”

For the second year in a row, students delivered cheer to employees at Sigstr, a tech company located in the Guaranty Building on Monument Circle. “Sigstr employees were pleasantly surprised to see IPS students stopping by their desks to give them each a bag of cheer,” said Sigstr’s Director of Marketing, Brad Beutler. “The smiles spread from one employee to the next.”

“The kids were very polite and respectful, and it definitely made our day,” said Beutler. “It also gave the kids an opportunity to take a field trip outside of school and get a glimpse into the tech/business world. I think they enjoyed seeing our office and learning about our business!”

Students were given a tour of the office and the opportunity to interact with Sigstr employees, including President and Founder Dan Hanrahan.

Beutler believes the Skillen students helped Sigstr employees feel a stronger connection to the community and Indianapolis Public Schools.

“It’s impressive to see the school proactively reach out to the business and tech community of Indianapolis and think of ways to bring both groups together,” he said. “We now have a stronger connection with IPS and School 34 and want to help these students however we can.”

Delivering the bags brought students a great deal of cheer, too. Many cannot wait for the chance to participate again next year.

“It is important for our school to do this, because it aligns with our culture of kindness,” said Beaty. “It builds community and a sense of pride within our school. We want to be intentional about giving each member of our school community the opportunity to know what it feels like to randomly make someone happy. It is our hope that this initiative expands beyond today and that students will continue to do this in their everyday lives for years to come.”