Written by Jessica Seay, AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the New Schools for Baton Rouge team at Merrydale Elementary School.

Signs of holiday magic linger in the halls of Merrydale Elementary School. As the students return to class, there remain snowflakes twirling in the AC, the occasional stray balloon bouncing through the commons area, and most notably is the cardboard replica of the Polar Express standing in the middle of the commons area as a reminder of the previous night’s festivities. 

The focus list students at Merrydale took a ride on the Polar Express. With golden tickets in hand, they went from station to station playing games and building crafts. With bellies full of hot cocoa and nachos, they celebrated a semester of achievements in Math, English, and behavior. The commons area at Merrydale filled with laughter and cheer as the kids were allowed to be just that, kids.

The memory of last night still sits with the students. This morning the AmeriCorps members at Merrydale were greeted with, “Last night was lit!” and “When are we going to have another Polar Express?” as they high-fived the students on their way into school. The event was a success, and the AmeriCorps members can finally enjoy the fruit of their work after many late nights spent building brick walls, cardboard trains, and duct tape train tracks.

My fondest memories from elementary school are of the field days, the after-school events and the classroom parties. Many of our focus list students don’t usually qualify for the grade and behavior incentive events put on by the school, so it was really special to be able to give them a night that was theirs. I know I will treasure the memory of building snowmen, playing games and taking silly selfies with my students, and I hope it was an evening they will look back on fondly 12 years from now.

Thank you to the members of the Baton Rouge Community who made this night possible for our students. It was certainly an evening to remember.

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