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Warren High students, teachers make it bright for Chicago kids

Members Warren High School student council National Honor Society Kim Rojas (left) 18 Park City Courtney Pos 16 Gurnee Madi

Members of the Warren High School student council and the National Honor Society Kim Rojas (left), 18, of Park City, Courtney Pos, 16, of Gurnee, Madi Beckley, 16, Gurnee and Charlie Suhling, 16, Gurnee organize gifts for the Letters to Santa program at the school in Gurnee. Students and staff purchased gifts from 1500 letters for children at Reilly Elementary School in Chicago. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 13, 2013 1:40AM

GURNEE — Using money she earned from her part-time job working with senior citizens, Warren Township High School senior Noopur Walia purchased a gift for a student who wouldn’t otherwise get a holiday present this year.

Walia of Gurnee was among hundreds of students and teachers at both O’Plaine and Almond campuses to participate in the Letters to Santa program.

“I feel like I personally get a lot of gifts. I’m really blessed. I wanted to give something to someone else,” Walia, 17, of Gurnee, said.

Student Council and National Honor Society clubs at both O’Plaine and Almond worked together to answer between 1,400 and 1,500 Letters to Santa from Reilly Elementary School in Chicago, according to Merissa Mercil, Advanced Placement psychology and sociology teacher and Almond campus student council adviser.

The letters were split up between the two Warren High campuses. Almond tackled about 750 letters.

Letters with students’ wishes were distributed in November and the gifts were collected Dec. 6 through Dec. 12. The gifts were packed into a truck and delivered to Reilly Elementary on Friday. Ninety-six percent of the students at the Chicago preschool through eighth-grade school are low-income, according to school report card data.

“The kids are great with the project. We’re a two-campus school. It’s one thing that really brings the campuses together. It’s a tradition they start doing as freshmen,” Mercil said.

Almond campus National Honor Society President Kim Rojas, 18, of Park City said all the letters to Santa were scooped up by students and teachers pretty quickly this year.

Letters are hand-written by needy students detailing what gifts they want. Warren students and teachers take letters, spend $25 answering each letter’s wish and then wrap the gift.

“I think it’s really great we have the opportunity to help a school less fortunate than ours. It’s the holiday spirit,” Rojas said.

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