San Jacinto College students, employees brighten holidays for Air Force troop | San Jac Athletics

San Jacinto College students, employees brighten holidays for Air Force troop

12.09.2014 | By Rob Vanya

San Jacinto College students Vanessa Kimmey (left) and Christopher Tello help Melanie Neill, San Jacinto College veterans’ center coordinator, to take inventory of items to be sent to an Air Force troop stationed in the Middle East as part of the College’s “Adopt a Troop for Christmas” drive. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.


They did not send a partridge in a pear tree, but a group of San Jacinto College students and employees sent plenty of treats, goodies, and even useful items to brighten the holidays for an “adopted” U.S. Air Force troop stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

A partial list of the $500 worth of items contributed in the “Adopt a Troop for Christmas” drive included homemade cookies, cereal bars, macaroni and cheese, beef jerky sticks, hand warmers, candy, powdered drink packages, popcorn, chewing gum, hot cocoa packages, soap, toothpaste, and other hygiene items.

The way the collaborative effort evolved is a heart-warming story. Last spring, a North Campus health information management student (who also serves in the Air Force) learned she would be re-deployed to the Middle East. Soon, students in health information management instructor Rebecca McDonald’s class decided to put together a care package for their former classmate stationed overseas, whose name cannot be included for security reasons.

“When we sent the student the care package, she was overwhelmed,” commented McDonald. “The student replied ‘I received the care packages two days ago. There was so much more than I could have asked for. I would like to greatly thank you and all who have contributed. I spread the wealth a little bit to those I work with. I hope you all do not mind. I am very thankful for all the thoughts and care that you all put into the packages. Thank you all so much and God bless you all.’”

McDonald and her students decided they wanted to do more, which led to the idea of adopting the entire troop for Christmas. Word spread around campus, and other programs began to get involved – veterans’ center employees, allied health faculty and students, culinary arts faculty and students, enrollment services employees, and others.

Little children caught the spirit. San Jacinto College operates a childcare center for students and employees, and children enrolled at the center made greeting cards to be included in the shipment to Kandahar. “The children enjoyed it, and when we told them it was for people who wouldn’t get to come home for Christmas some of them asked to make two cards,” commented Bethany Stansell, San Jacinto College North Campus child development lab school director.

Melanie Neill, San Jacinto College North Campus veterans’ center coordinator, was amazed at how the drive snowballed with nothing but word-of-mouth promotion. “We know that all service members need to feel support from home, and especially during the holiday season,” commented Neill. “San Jacinto College doesn’t just say we are military friendly, we demonstrate it. Thank you to all those who serve.”

As he helped count items to be sent to the Air Force troop adopted by the College, San Jacinto College military veteran student Christopher Tello talked about his deployment with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

“It can be lonely serving over there far from home in the Middle East,” said Tello, who is now in the Army Reserves. “I remember that it was especially lonely for me during Christmas when I was in Iraq because I was unable to go home for the holidays. That’s why I am glad to be a part of this effort to bring some holiday cheer to this troop that is serving over there during the holidays. I hope it cheers them up and lets them know they are not forgotten, that we are cheering for them.”

San Jacinto College is a five-time military friendly school, according to Victory Media Inc.’s annual Military Friendly Schools list. The annual list showcases the top 20 percent of colleges, universities, and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace America’s service members, veterans, and spouses.

For information about services San Jacinto College provides for military veterans, please visit

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.