Holiday Festival Delivers Cheer In April


Photo courtesy of Sophia Katsouris

Students with Señora Rodriguez at Roberto Clemente Elementary School.

Sarah Chagares, Editor in Chief

         The holiday season is always a special time at Ramapo High School. Every December since 1973 the Holiday Festival Committee would transform the mundane halls of the school into a bright, festive wonderland for the enjoyment of elementary students from Paterson, New Jersey. These light hearted and much anticipated festivities could not happen this past December due to the COVID-19 restrictions that were mandated by New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy. This brought great despair that was felt by the entire Ramapo community and beyond. Then a miracle occurred. Señora Rodriguez, the advisor of the event, decided that not even a pandemic would stop the much loved holiday tradition from happening. Instead of bringing the students of Roberto Clemente to the Holiday Festival, the Ramapo community brought the Holiday Festival to the Roberto Clemente students.

         On April 29th,  the 48th annual Holiday Festival and all of its trappings was packed up and brought to Roberto Clemente Elementary School where it was celebrated with joy and laughter. Señora Rodriguez and a contingent of excited Ramapo students descended on the Roberto Clemente School with gift cards and special gifts for all of the participants. Some of the Ramapo students were dressed up as well-known characters like Dora the Explorer, Elmo and others. Interacting with these beloved characters brought smiles and laughter to the younger students’ faces. Other Ramapo students assisted with the distribution of the gifts, much to the delight of all that received a present. The Ramapo Holiday Festival committee provided a long overdue and much needed holiday-like afternoon for the young children of Roberto Clemente Elementary School. The Ramapo Holiday Festival was alive and well, albeit looking a little different.

         The driving force behind this event was its advisor of fourteen years–Señora Rodriguez. As such she has seen fourteen different permeations of the Festival. But this year was completely different from any year prior. When asked why it was important to her to continue this tradition in light of the pandemic, Señora reflected that, “The Roberto Clemente kids need us now more than ever and I thought we couldn’t possibly fail to bring them a little bit of hope and the assurance that we haven’t forgotten them.” Of course, the Roberto Clemente students were not the only ones who benefitted from participating in the Festival. Señora Rodriguez happily explained that the Ramapo students also received something that day saying, “There is an opportunity to enrich our lives if we try to give a hand to a person who needs it. We are not only making a difference in a life, but we are getting the benefit to become a better person.”  Every student who participated in this event no doubt felt that sense of personal enrichment and satisfaction.

         The day was a huge success but making the Festival happen this year was particularly difficult because a large number of students were not physically in the school so effective virtual communication became paramount.  Most of the extensive coordination that was required for the event to be successful had to be done by way of  Schoology posts, emails, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and word of mouth. But those obstacles did not deter Señora who commented, “I couldn’t be prouder of our school community. Students, teachers and people in our community had come together and we were able to accomplish our goal to get every Roberto Clemente child a gift card during our visit to Paterson. In spite of everything that is going on, the Holiday Festival was a success this year.” Señora Rodriguez was quick to add that many people helped to make the Festival happen, “I am very grateful for the secretaries in the office, Mrs. Ferro, Mrs. Anson, Mr. Basile, Mr. Ospina and Ms. Tomaselli, among other colleagues who supported and made this activity possible.”

         Many members of the Ramapo community have suffered great losses in the midst of this pandemic. Looking back on this unprecedented school year we can count the continuation of the Holiday Festival as a huge success thanks to Señora Rodriguez and the dedicated faculty members and students who assisted her.