These are just a few of the ways the 25 students in Hoboken High School’s Hispanic Culture Club have spent their time during the month of December in their new initiative to perform random acts of kindness for each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas.
“I feel like when we do these acts of kindness, it makes the world a little bit brighter,” said senior and president of the club Ivelissa Lorenzo earlier this month. “These days, the news is so negative, it’s nice to show there is some happiness in the world and some good out there.”
“I feel like life is really all about the little things,” said senior and vice president of the club Andrew Moya. “One day we had to just give someone a hug, so I gave a cast mate a hug, and sometimes those innocent things that can make someone’s day.”
The club, which has been around since the 1950s, is an organization of students that share a common interest in exploring the Hispanic culture, community service, and community involvement.
Hoboken has long had a significant Hispanic population. In the 1950s, the Tootsie Roll company, who had a factory on 15th Street, advertised in Puerto Rico, offering jobs and inexpensive apartments for those who came here. Other area factories did the same. The Tootsie Roll factory, however, closed in the 1960s.
According to the Department of Education’s 2016-2017 enrollment data, of 1,723 students in the public schools, 826 are Hispanic. The high school is roughly 65 percent Hispanic, according to the club’s advisor, Christopher Munoz.
Got idea from old post
The clubs advisor for the past six years, Christopher Munoz, said he originally got the idea for the new kindness initiative several years ago from a Facebook post and decided to create a calendar this year of different acts of kindness they could do throughout Hoboken each day.
Senior Veronica Mannillo, the club’s secretary, said every December the club tries to do some type of community service. But this is the first year trying this new initiative.
“Around December every year, we try and do something that gives back to the community,” said Mannillo. “We’ve done toy drives and food drives, but we decided to take it a step forward this year by having acts of kindness everyday instead of just one thing and this is more interactive with the community.”
“We wanted to do something as simple as feeding the birds or bring treats to the local firefighters, or leave kind positive notes for people to find as well as raise food donations to the local pet rescue and food shelter,” said Munoz. ”We felt Christmas time is the time to do it. It’s the one time of year where people are nicer, and we wanted to help spread cheer and kindness.”
Munoz said he also started doing it in Jersey City and his hometown of Bayonne. He believes the club may try to do it again next year, since they have gotten a good response from the community.
“One day, we went to Brandt [Elementary] School and handed out stickers to the students there,” said Moya, who said it was his favorite act of kindness. “At first, they were like, ‘What’s going on,’ but they really enjoyed it.”
One parent even commented on the group’s Facebook page, “My daughter came home talking about the high school kids and that she is going to keep her sticker forever. Very sweet idea and left an impression on my kindergartner!”
Mannillo said her favorite day was last Wednesday Dec. 20, when she and other students went to the local fire station to bring treats.
“I liked the fireman one,” she said. “Just brining them donuts and to see them smile and say thank you and then we thanked them for being heroes.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.