Austin CPS students get surprise Christmas party

Evelyn Holmes Image
Wednesday, December 13, 2023
West Side CPS students get surprise Christmas party
Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, students at Howe School of Excellence in Austin got a surprise Christmas party Wednesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There was a bit of holiday magic Wednesday for some Chicago Public Schools students.

Howe School of Excellence had the gift of a surprise Christmas party.

"It was pretty cool. Stuff like this doesn't happen all the time, and I'm pretty grateful for it to happen," eighth-grader Emanuel Day said.

It happened Wednesday morning at the pre-K through eighth grade elementary school, located in the city's Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side.

The unexpected celebration was a secret Principal Nikita Horn had been keeping for nine months.

"This is extremely important for students of the Austin community. We are minority students. They are already at a disadvantage," Horn said.

Roughly 400 students were showered with cheer, as a part of the Daisie Foundation's seventh annual Holiday Magic Experience.

The Chicago public school was anonymously nominated for the act of kindness, sponsored by the charity known for empowering women and girls.

RELATED: Brenda Lee's 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' tops Billboard Hot 100 for 1st time

By the end of the week, the Daisie Foundation and its partner sponsors will have surprised over 2,000 students, in not just Chicago, but Milwaukee and Houston, as well.

"There are so many dynamics going on. We have children who are dealing with adult issues, and they may not be remembered," said Julie Hightower, Daisie Foundation executive board president.

Presents included toys, special items and the like, along with a catered lunch.

Santa and Mrs. Claus gave out gifts with the help of their elves and special guests, TV actors "The Bear's" Corey Hendrix and "The Chi's" Cortez Smith.

Illinois' governor and lieutenant governor were in attendance, too.

The school's teachers were also celebrated with a holiday gift of cosmetics and beauty products.

"The holiday season can be very saddening for a lot of our kids, so this is a big spark of joy that they needed," teacher Sarah Riley said.

And while Christmas doesn't actually happen for another couple of weeks, the joy came early Wednesday.

"At first, it didn't feel like Christmas, but now it put me in a Christmas spirit," eighth-grader Aniya Gatlin said.