Holiday gifts for at-risk youth were presented to representatives from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District during the annual awards ceremony of the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors on Thursday.
The association filled 20 duffel bags with holiday presents for kids enrolled in the district’s Students in Transition program.
“It’s a really amazing thing,” said Nicole Murphy, a district coordinator with the Students in Transition program.
She said the opportunity to distribute holiday gifts to kids in the school district is always a highlight of the season, particularly considering that the gifts are given to kids from people who don’t know them.
“I think it almost, in a way, means more because it’s this person that (the students) don’t know.”
Students in Transition is a federally funded program that aims to address the needs of youth in the school district who lack a permanent, stable and adequate place to sleep at night, according to the district website.
Murphy said this is the fourth year the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors has donated holiday gifts to the kids in the program.
Kelly Martin, the CEO of the Association of Realtors, said philanthropic work is part of what the association prides itself on.
“Realtors get involved in their community,” she said. “We just have a very giving group of people.”
In Murphy’s presentation to the association, she said through her work she hopes to dispel negative public perceptions about the reality of families and students experiencing homelessness on the peninsula.
“The misconception is that this kid just doesn’t want to be at home and they don’t want to follow the rules,” she said. “Statistics show otherwise.”
Many students Murphy works with, she said, are actually leaving dangerous situations at home.
And around the holidays, many kids aren’t used to getting presents, she said.
Murphy described a couple Students in Transition kids she’s worked with have echoed similar concerns around this time of year: Why would someone I don’t know want to get me a gift? I’ve always been let down around the holidays, why will this be any different?
“Giving these gifts to the kids is like my happiest time, to be able to see their faces and see their response, because they’re not expecting it,” Murphy said.
The gifts will be distributed to kids in the program in the next two weeks leading up to Christmas.
For more information on the Students in Transition program visit the group’s webpage on the KPBSD site or on Facebook.