UHDPD Delivers Holiday Cheer to Local Schools
By Mike Emery
Children usually expect to receive holiday toys from a bearded man in a red and white suit. At James L. Ketelsen Elementary School, however, a green gator and University of Houston-Downtown Police Department (UHDPD) officers served as Santa’s helpers.
For the fourth consecutive year, UHDPD led a toy drive for children in need at the nearby school. On Dec. 20, officers and UHD’s Gator mascot delivered items to Ketelsen’s students. Participating officers included Sgt. Trinity Delafance, Officer Tabitha Rivera, Officer Ricardo Reyna, Officer Raymond Jenkins and Lt. Frederick Varela. Ketelsen faculty and principal Shelene Livas also joined the festivities.
Officers arrived with gifts in hand while students assembled in the school library. Once students were in place, UHD’s Gator made a grand entrance receiving waves and hugs. Then, the real fun began with officers presenting boys with gifts wrapped in green and girls with presents wrapped in red. More than 30 students benefitted from UHDPD’s toy drop off.
“It’s always good to give to others,” Delafance said. “Many of the children we met today may not receive gifts this year, so receiving a toy today is special for them.”
Students moved to the school’s lobby to unwrap their gifts, which included everything from Barbie items to My Little Pony playsets.
“We are very fortunate to have this UHD partnership,” Livas said. “Our students benefit greatly from the generosity of UHDPD. This gift delivery not only helps our students, it helps families who may not be able to provide the kind of holiday they’d like to offer their children.
“It’s great to see them receive these presents here at school. They experience the holiday spirit and learn about giving, receiving and sharing. We are most appreciative that UHD continues to visit us each holiday season.”
Livas added that Ketelsen’s collaborations extend beyond holiday goodwill. She said that the school serves as a training ground for many student teachers from UHD’s Urban Education program and many Ketelsen faculty are UHD alumni.
In addition to taking toys to Ketelsen kids, UHDPD officers delivered gift cards to students at Marshall Middle School. The cards were for area eateries, which will benefit nine students and their families. This was the second year UHDPD contributed gifts to this middle school.
“I was informed that at least one of the students at Marshall had never had a home cooked meal,” Delfance said. “It’s important that we do this for these students. We’re supposed to take care of each other. To see the smiles on the students’ faces is priceless. That’s why we do this.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.