The holidays are a time of family, food, gifts a celebration. While it’s a time of year most of us look forward to this season, for some families that isn’t the case. Azel Prather Jr. is a physical education teacher at KIPP DC Arts & Technology Academy, and for the last four years has partnered with the community to help bring a little holiday cheer to KIPP DC families.
“The idea originally took form when I was teaching at KIPP Ways Primary in Atlanta where I was able to provide gifts for 10 families. After moving back to Washington, DC last year, I was initially looking to do the same drive for my class. But, after putting the word out on Twitter it spread and we were able to surprise the entire school!”
The toy drive itself has become a community touchpoint for the Arts & Technology community, with teachers, staff, and parents chipping in to help wrap gifts. Local partners within the community even pitched in this year as part of a self-care day the Wednesday before Winter Break, where local barbers, beauticians, and nail technicians provided haircuts and other services to students. The week culminated with a school-wide holiday celebration featuring music, holiday programming, a visit from Santa, and the presentation of the holiday gifts.
For Mr. Prather, who grew up in the area, the ability to give back to the community and bring a bit of holiday cheer during this season is driving force behind the toy drive. “There are several things that shape the future leaders of tomorrow, but the main ingredient is love,” said Mr. Prather. “I just look forward to seeing the smiles on their faces. A lot of our kids go through so much and yet they come to school with a smile every day. So why not try and bring them a little joy?”