Nov 162006

A CSU living-learning community is bringing the holidays to student families. In an effort to alleviate some of the financial struggle many non-traditional students face during the holidays, the community will play Santa Claus.

Key Plus, a sophomore living-learning community, went door to door in both Braiden and Parmelee halls, the halls that house all the Key communities, to collect any toys residents were able to donate.

Angelica Riley, a sophomore technical journalism major, was pleased with the volume of toys they collected.

“We had a great turnout,” Riley said. “If I were in that situation, I would definitely love it if people helped to support my family.”

“It’s great to support non-traditional groups and let them know that they’re wanted and cared about,” she added.

The project, which will include bringing shoeboxes filled with toys to its recipients, is being conducted as a project for the Key Plus leadership seminar class.

A group of five students – sophomores Angelica Riley, Krishae Vinson, James Young, Erica Pearson and Melissa Uhl – have been working together on the shoebox project. It is one of five projects taking place within the leadership seminar.

Angela Gwyn and Demetrios Godenitz, advisors at the Center for Advising and Student Achievement, are co-teaching the leadership seminar.

Gwyn said their students were allowed to choose the project they wanted to do as long as it met certain criteria.

“It gives the students the experience to work with different personalities, build off of people’s strengths, learn about their personal strengths and learn about communication within a group,” Godenitz said.

On Sunday, Key Plus decorated and filled the shoeboxes with donated toys. Now that the shoeboxes are ready to go, they plan to take them to Off-Campus Student Services, who will distribute the shoeboxes to the families toward the end of November.

Jan Rastall, coordinator for OCSS and Resources for Adult Learners, identified the need for such a donation within the CSU community.

“Single parents experience the hardest time with being the sole supporter, trying to earn an education and having parenting responsibilities,” Rastall said. “Any type of donation or support for them is greatly appreciated.”

The idea for the project was born when Key Plus member Krishae Vinson, a sophomore social work major, looked back on her own childhood experience, when her mother was trying to finish school.

“What I immediately thought of was how my mom was a college student, when I was 12, at Central Missouri State University,” Vinson said. ” I lived in campus housing for adults as a kid. I thought about how I wished as a kid that the school would have more of a connection with the kids that live there.”

Vinson says this project will make a difference in the kids’ lives, or, at the very least, put a smile on their faces.

“I like the aspect of helping the children of parents struggling through college. I think we’re making a difference,” she said. “It should make the kids happy.”

The Key Plus community is comprised of CSU sophomores who either participated in the Key Academic Community or Key Service Community as freshmen. All the Key communities are living-learning programs designed to work as both student retention programs and community service programs.

Staff writer Taryn Clark can be reached at

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