Students Forge Relationships And Self-Esteem Through Giving

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Genuine care for others is an ingredient of healthy relationships.

Indeed, it is one of the tenets Jean Oliver is trying to instill in Payson Center for Success (C4S) students who attend the Healthy Relationships group she mediates.

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A Dragonheart opportunity: Center for Success students Nicole Gonzales and Sara DeWitt load up Jean Oliver's sleigh with gifts for Time Out families.

The caring and generosity of the 14 students in the relationship class, spilled over to 25 more C4S students.

This is the third year they have adopted two families from Thanksgiving through Christmas with food and gifts.

The families are part of Time Out Shelter's transitional housing program.

"I just thought, I need to buy gifts for these families instead of just stuff for me," Justin Bartlett said.

He wrapped a Shrek III DVD and a Beanie Baby of the Donkey character for one child.

Students spent their own money on the adopted families.

Jordan Plues pulled a dozen angels off the tree, then went shopping.

"You feel like Santa when you go shopping because you don't know them, but you have their list," she said.

The Christmas present Plues enjoyed picking out most was for a three-year-old girl.

"She wanted Thomas the Train, so my boyfriend and I played with trains in the toy store as we tried to pick out the perfect one," Plues said.

Pickles and egg nog, although not necessarily eaten in the same sitting, are holiday musts in the DeWitt home, so Sarah made certain the families had those items to go with turkey, ham, side dishes and beverages C4S students gathered.

Sara also picked out clothing, socks and underwear for the five children, mother and grandmother.

"We didn't get to meet the families because of their situation at the shelter. They are there because someone is trying to hurt them and we want to keep them safe," Nicole Gonzales said.

This is the third year she has helped bring holiday cheer to someone she does not know. She picked out toys and jewelry.

"God bless these kids," Oliver said. She is Time Out's education coordinator.

"On thing it is important to remember is that a lot of these kids come from home without a lot of resources, yet they are helping families with fewer resources," Oliver said.

With the holidays over and the New Year beginning, Gonzales and other students are back in Oliver's class.

"We are trying to create good relationships with friends, parents, teachers and the community," Gonzales said.

She has learned the value of listening to parents and teachers, treating friends with respect and being polite.

"What goes on in class, stays in class," Oliver said.

They discuss how body language, such as crossed arms and a frown can put someone off.

They discuss strategies for talking with parents without becoming angry and upset.

Students are entitled to their opinions, even if Oliver does not agree with it. Disagreement leads to a discussion of appropriateness.

"If you don't have good self-esteem, life is a downer," Oliver said, so she always starts the class with the question:

"What's good in your life?"

Right now, they can take pride in the success of their holiday adoption.

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