Holly-Jolly Holidays at Think Together’s Shalimar Learning Center!

As the season of giving continues in full force, Think Together’s Shalimar Learning Center is embracing it with open arms and creating joyous memories for our students! Being the place where Think Together started, Shalimar is always in motion, especially during the holidays, giving back to students and the community. This year they had an eventful holiday season where they hosted various events in collaboration with other organizations such as You Run This Town OC and the National Charity League Newport Chapter.

Here’s a recap of everything Shalimar was up to this holiday season!

Christmas Tree Distribution with You Run This Town OC Organization

Every year our Shalimar Center puts together their annual Christmas tree distribution event, which are gifted by the You Run This Town OC (YRTTOC) organization with the help of the Tesoro Titan Baseball League.

Think Together has partnered with YRTTOC for nearly seven years to gift trees to the Shalimar community. This year over 40 Christmas trees were donated.

YRTTOC also provides life skills and workforce readiness workshops to Shalimar teens that teach them about financial literacy and help them build their resumes. They currently have around 12 to 15 students who are constantly engaged in the lessons.

Director and college advising mentor for YRTTOC, Jacquie Schaefgen, explained how she helps guide students’ futures.

“I believe in equal access to opportunity, and I feel like giving kids opportunities can be great, so I like to be a part of that,” Jacquie said. “These are life lessons that maybe we don’t all get at the same time. I teach the financial literacy here, which I instill into the kids in terms of their ability that they have more control than they think over their futures.”

Thrifting for the Holiday Season with the National Charity League

Shalimar students enjoyed an evening of thrift shopping, at the National Charity League Newport Chapter’s Ticktocker Thrift Shop in Costa Mesa. Students got to shop around the store and select three items to gift to a family member or friend.

The shopping experience is a special treat for students who showcased good attendance, participation and behavior throughout the year. The NCL has been partnering with Think Together’s Shalimar Learning Center for over eight years to put together events like these, which always bring bright smiles to students’ faces during the holiday season.

In addition to shopping in the store, students decorated sugar cookies and wrapped their gifts in holiday bags. The NCL staff also gifted them with holiday socks and pajamas to add to their gift bag.

“The program is so important for the kids because it keeps them motivated and at the same time, they can participate in events like these where they don’t miss out on Christmas traditions,” said a parent from Shalimar. “The kids get excited to attend class and these events.”

Tamale Feast with Santa Claus

Shalimar’s Parent Advisory hosted it’s second annual Santa Claus event. This year students and their families got to enjoy delicious tamales with none other than Santa Claus himself! Last year the Shalimar Learning Center enjoyed cookies with Santa and due to its huge success, it made a return this year as well.

The tamale feast is graciously provided by Leticia Ortiz, a mother on the Parent Advisory, who owns a catering business. She’s well known in the community for her food and the Shalimar Learning Center expresses great appreciation for having her cater most of their community events.

Besides enjoying delicious tamales, families also get the chance to dress up and take a family photo with Santa Claus. The students of course, are always excited to meet Santa and spend time with their friends and families for the holiday season.

Holiday gift bags were given out to students, which were donated and put together by Pac Life, a long-time champion for Think Together, during a volunteer event. This year they donated over $50,000 for several enrichment kit building volunteer events.

“Our community events are important because it is an opportunity for our center and staff to interact with the entire community and not just our program families,” said Shalimar’s Family and Community Center Coordinator, Melissa Arambula. “It is a way for us to show that our center is a safe space for everyone and a way for us all to connect.”

MVE + Partners, Inc. and AO Architects Holiday Angel Trees

Every year, MVE + Partners, Inc. (MVE) and AO Architects organize a holiday gift drive for the students at the Shalimar Teen and Learning Center. MVE has been part of the holiday drive for six years and AO Architects has been a Think Together partner for three years.

Both companies have angel trees at their offices for employees to choose a student’s tag from the tree and gift them something from their list.

Many of these holiday gifts are made possible by Think Together alumni, Paolo Leon, who attended Shalimar during his youth. He has worked at both companies and has been a prominent champion for expanded learning by sitting on the board of directors and Friends of Shalimar Commitee for Think Together.

It was truly a magical holiday season of giving at Think Together’s Shalimar Learning Center as it always is! We are always working toward creating lasting memories and bright futures.

One of our next steps to support the students at Shalimar is to raise funds for a laptop cart so students have better and consistent access to online curriculum. Your support can make a meaningful impact! Please consider donating to help us continue to change the odds for kids and make a difference in our California youth. Follow the link to donate today.