La Joya ISD Sharing Christmas for More Than 30 Years

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LA JOYA – For some in La Joya ISD, gifting Christmas to others started small. Nearly three decades later, it’s grown into a major effort to bring joy to many in one Rio Grande Valley town.

They are gifts from the heart. For more than 30 years, students at La Joya High School have adopted needy families so they, too, can enjoy the holidays.

It has now become a school district-wide project.  

Yolanda Garcia is a Spanish teacher at La Joya High School and she is the one who started the project.  

“It was 33 years ago when I was first hired by La Joya. They would take us on a bus ride, and when I saw where our students lived, I thought I needed to do something,” she said.

Garcia said it started with her classroom and six families. Now, every homeroom at the high school adopts a family.

So, do they know how many presents they have given out?

“Oh my Lord, I want to say close to 500,000. One of the families is getting a stove, another is getting a hot water heater,” said Garcia.

As we said, the whole school gets involved. So, we followed one school bus to a colonia.

“And from the bottom of our heart, we hope we’ve given as much as we can,” said one volunteer.

They surprised Maria Villarreal, a La Joya ISD mom, at her home.

“It’s a blessing. Thank you very much. You just made our family very happy,” she said.

Vanessa Lopez, a parent educator at La Joya ISD, explained why it was so important to give to this family.

“Moses, he’s a student at Clinton Elementary. He’s in the Special Ed unit and he just lost his dad a few months ago,” she said. 

For one student, this project was a life lesson. She remembers how this changes one Christmas for her and her family.

“A couple years ago, my family was part of this. They received gifts,” said student Jocelin Miramontes. “I’m going to be honest, that year we created our tree. We didn’t even have a tree that year. I got the things I got for Christmas because of them.”

Miramontes said she now volunteers every year to give back.

“I saw my mom cry that year so bad,” she said.

The students are not shy about sharing.

“This is Christmas, one of the best holidays of the season. And of course, everyone, no matter their race, their gender, their religion, they deserve to have a good holiday,” said Eddie Barrera, a senior at La Joya High School.

“And it just makes you want to cry because you realize that you should be grateful for everything you have,” said fourth-year student America Garcia. 

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