Palo Alto cultivates annual ‘giving tree’

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Campus works together to brighten holidays for students with families in need.

By Hannah Norman



More than 100 children of Palo Alto College students will enjoy Christmas gifts, a visit with Santa Claus, seasonal treats and a holiday movie this week at the 20th annual Little Palomino Tree celebration.

The event is 5-7 p.m. Friday in the Legacy Room of Palo Alto’s Ozuna Learning and Academic Center.

The Little Palomino Tree is helping 54 student families this year, thanks to students, faculty and staff who picked a card off the tree earlier in November.

To check in that evening, families will pick up a Christmas card, receive their gifts and meet Santa Claus. They can also sample free tamales, cookies, sweets and hot chocolate while watching the movie “Elf.”

“Still to this day, it is the best event that I’ve ever done just because you see how happy they are,” said Jessica Barnes, event supervisor.

The college’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success spearheads the project, along with student life and student organizations at Palo Alto.

Planning began in early October with a committee including Barnes; Carlos Cruz, director of student life; Erica Muñoz, student life coordinator; Samantha Hernandez, NSLS president; Gabby Rangel, NSLS adviser, Carmen Velasquez, NSLS adviser; and Timmy ‘Mako’ Ivory, NSLS financial adviser.

This summer, the Legacy Room had completed renovation in the Ozuna building, next to Starbucks. Student life and other organizations chose the room to host The Little Palomino Tree project because there would be more space to wrap presents, organize gifts, set up play areas and serve food to families.

Campus recreation, veteran’s affairs, and ‘PACmen’ will also help set up for the event by preparing gifts and decorating 2-5 p.m. Dec. 10 in the Legacy Room. Volunteers for the event are asked to be there at 2 p.m. Dec. 11.

PACmen is an organization dedicated to helping Hispanic males finish college because of their history of low graduation rates.

Future Educators of America are running a book fair in the student center for the third time to contribute to The Little Palomino Tree project. The proceeds will go toward purchasing books for children at the event.

The leaders of NSLS took the reins of The Little Palomino Tree project last year to help students meet the five hours of community service requirement before induction into NSLS.

“It helped us because a lot of students were like ‘I can’t find anywhere to do my hours,’” Barnes said. “This would work with their school schedules.”

The Little Palomino Tree project emailed a reminder about the event to students, faculty and staff in early November. Attached in the mass email was an application for families in need and volunteers.

Organizers reminded donors to buy toys children can interact with during the festive event. Winter clothing also was a popular request from families with babies and toddlers.

NSLS will usually supplement cars and other small toys with the clothing, because although clothing is important, the organization wants to make sure every child has a toy to play with that evening.

The volunteers don’t seek recognition for what they do because they believe they are giving back to those in need.

“You deserve this because you’ve been working so hard in school,” Barnes said. “You have to cut back your hours because you’re trying to do something better for your family.”

Primo, the new mascot for Palo Alto with the teal Mohawk, will make an appearance along with the college president and vice presidents.

“We usually set aside two cards for the VPs and the higher-ups because they are really good about getting their gifts to us,” Barnes said. “They’re very generous and giving.”

For more information, contact Muñoz at 210-486-3137 or


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