They might not be putting on red hats and fake white beards, but students from John Seggar’s Sociology 358 class will be playing Santa this Christmas for youth at the Observation and Assessment Center.
The idea to participate in the Sub-for-Santa program came last year from BYU graduate Tiffany Hanson, Seggar said. Hanson, a treatment counselor at the center, is a former student of Seggar’s.
“We wanted to do something for the kids anyway for Christmas, but we knew we needed outside resources,” Hanson said.
The center is a division of Youth Corrections for the State of Utah. It is designed to provide assessments for the courts and recommend placement for youth, Hanson said. The typical stay is from 45 to 60 days, which means that some kids will inevitably be staying there during the holidays.
Last year, students raised about $2,800 to buy a Christmas tree, lights and gifts for youth in the center, Seggar said. With a “wish list” of sorts from the center, they were able to buy personalized gifts and make the kids’ Christmas better than it otherwise might have been.
“When you’re in a facility like that on Christmas morning, it could be a pretty bleak experience,” Seggar said.
This year’s Sociology 358 class has pledged a certain amount of money to the project and is raising funds in other classes as well, said Jennifer Davis, a senior from South Jordan majoring in sociology.
“We’ve already collected hundreds of dollars from students who have nothing to do with our class,” Davis said.
A few sporting goods stores in the community have donated items to the project, said Jarrod Hendricks, a senior from Merced, Calif., majoring in sociology. Steve Young, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has donated autographed photographs and special editions of Sports Illustrated to be auctioned off.
When they find out which kids will be staying at the center over Christmas, they’ll begin shopping for gifts, Hendricks said. “We want to try to individualize the presents,” he said.
“The reason kids are there is because their parents don’t want them home or they don’t really have parents,” he added.
Seggar agrees that the youth, especially around the holidays, could easily be overlooked.
“Sometimes others get thought of more quickly than kids in a detention center,” Seggar said.
Working with the center has not only been beneficial for the youth, but for the students as well, Seggar said.
“I think it creates an awareness among students who come from an environment that, if not affluent, is at least comfortable,” he said.
Anyone interested in contributing to the Sub-for-Santa project can contact Seggar at 378-3461.