Basalt students discover gift of giving by participating in Angel Tree program |

Basalt students discover gift of giving by participating in Angel Tree program

Many of the kids who provided gifts know firsthand how tough financial times affect Christmas

Some students at Basalt High School who know what it’s like for a family to face tough financial times at Christmas took action to ensure other youngsters received gifts this year.

The students in Gricel Martinez’s five classes — Spanish Language Arts 1 and 2, and AP Spanish Language and Culture — purchased and wrapped between 80 and 100 presents for the Angel Tree, Roaring Fork Valley program. Martinez said she was impressed by the overwhelming interest among her students to embrace the gift giving.

“They have donated more than 80 presents for boys and girls to make this Christmas a special time for those kiddos whose reality is harder than my students’,” Martinez said. “It’s just about trying to make someone’s life better, even for a day.”

The vast majority of her students are newcomers to the country or first-generation U.S. citizens, she said. In some cases, their own families haven’t been able to provide Christmas gifts in the past, so the program struck home.

Edith Camunez, a senior in the AP Spanish Language and Culture class, said she was gone the day Martinez announced the gift-giving idea.

“The next day she told me and honestly I felt kind of excited to do it because I know what it’s like to grow up with having to be tight on money all the time,” Camunez said. “I knew what it felt like to not wake up to presents. It’s not the best feeling, especially as a kid.”

She told her mom about the effort and they went shopping together. Edith used money she earned from babysitting. She thinks she found a perfect gift.

“(We) bought a little toolkit kind of thing,” she said. “It looked really fun. It excited me so I was like I definitely wanted to get that.”

For the Angel Tree program, the students wrapped the present and indicated on the outside what age they would appeal to and, if applicable, what gender. Kids aged infant to 12 were recipients. The Angel Tree organizers collected the gifts from the Basalt High School students Dec. 9 and presented them to the kids recently at a party with Santa Claus. The recipients were residents of the lower valley.

Ashley Barragan, a junior in one of the Spanish classes, said she was eager to participate in the program.

“Over the years it had just been me and my mom, so I wouldn’t get a lot of gifts or anything like that,” she said. “So when I heard we would be giving to kids that wouldn’t (otherwise) be getting anything, it made me want to give.”

She went shopping with her mom and they bought a Play-Doh set with a scissor skills practice kit.

“It felt heartwarming to give to someone else,” Barragan said.

“I knew what it felt like to not wake up to presents. It’s not the best feeling, especially as a kid.” — Edith Camunez, BHS senior

Betsy Argueta, a sophomore in one of the Spanish classes, used money she earns from cleaning construction sites to buy a gift for the effort.

“As a child I never got many presents because money was really tight,” she said. “I just wanted to make a kid get what I couldn’t get.”

Martinez said her students purchased a wide range of gifts — dolls, puzzles and doctor sets.

“Some of them walked the extra mile to get really good presents,” she said.

Martinez hopes to make the gift giving an annual tradition for her students. It’s a great way to immerse them into the community, she said.


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