1,900 local children meet Santa and Mrs. Claus in Toyland

A child from East St. Louis School District 189 meets Santa Claus at the Casino Queen’s 2016 Toyland event.
A child from East St. Louis School District 189 meets Santa Claus at the Casino Queen’s 2016 Toyland event.

Youngsters from East St. Louis School District 189 were scheduled to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus this week.

They, like 41,500 children before them, experienced the holiday tradition of attending the Casino Queen’s Toyland event. It took place Dec. 13 and 14 this year in the Casino Queen’s Hotel Ballroom. The event has occurred every year for more than two decades.

The pre-kindergarten through second-grade students are sent home with a holiday gift bag filled with a knit hat, socks, gloves, wearable blanket, game and paint kit.

Student athletes from the Southwestern Illinois College baseball team and AmeriCorps volunteers from District 189 started preparing on Monday for Santa’s visit. They also planned to serve as Santa’s helpers by handing out gifts when students visited on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Some of the AmeriCorps volunteers once attended the event when they were children going to school in District 189.

Robotics team gets first award in its FIRST competition

A team of students from Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Waterloo brought home their first award in a FIRST Lego League robotics competition. And it was their first time competing.

The seventh- and eighth-graders designed, built and programed a robot using Lego Mindstorms technology. They had to explain their reasoning and programming knowledge to judges, participate in a judged team building activity and present a solution to a real world problem. The team had been preparing since August, the school stated in a news release.

They earned the Rookie Team Award.

School takes home the Tighty-Whitey Trophy, too

Students from Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School took home another prize recently — the “Tighty Whitey” Trophy.

The Waterloo school’s student body faced off with Immaculate Conception School’s Columbia students in the annual Funderwear competition. They raced to collect the most new underwear, socks, hats and gloves for the families served by the Daystar organization in Cairo.

The schools collected a total of 4,470 items for people in need: 2,570 items from Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School and 1,900 from Immaculate Conception School.

Metro-east students are named Illinois State Scholars

Students from St. Clair, Madison, Monroe and Clinton counties are among the more than 19,300 who have been named state scholars.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission recently announced the names of the 2017-18 Illinois State Scholars, who are recognized for their superior academic achievement. They rank in approximately the top 10 percent of high school seniors from 765 schools across Illinois.

Teens are chosen based on a combination of ACT or SAT standardized test scores and their sixth semester class ranks.

Eric Zarnikow, ISAC executive director, gave kudos to the students as well as their teachers, parents, coaches and other mentors who helped them.

“Students have a lot to contend with as they move through high school — from increased testing to extracurricular activities to highly competitive college admissions,” he said.

A list of students can also be found on ISAC’s website,

Teens read ‘The Giving Tree’ to youngsters, mayor

Second-graders at St. Teresa Catholic School in Belleville were recently visited by high schoolers who came to read Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” to them — and Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert.

Eckert joined Althoff Catholic High School students in teacher Maribeth Nelson’s classroom for the reading and a discussion about character on Dec. 6. The teens are members of the youth board of the Belleville Achieves Strength in Character group.

Kathy Schaefer, BASIC youth board moderator for Althoff, said she picked a second-grade class for the mayor’s visit because he likes to allow students to ask him questions.

“They asked the best questions,” Schaefer said. “The kids were like, ‘What do you do as the mayor?’ ‘Is the mayor higher than the president?’ It was really cute.”

Althoff students also visited Our Lady Queen of Peace in Belleville. Students from Belleville East High School and Belleville West High School traveled to area schools to read to children, too.

The Belleville East students also spent the day placing scarves at area bus stops for people waiting in the cold and for people who are homeless.

Area student council collects toys for children

Members of St. John Neumann Catholic School’s student council collected toys for the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation earlier this month.

Toys were donated during the annual Breakfast with Santa event on Dec. 3, which included a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, donuts, a hot cocoa bar, crafts and a performance from the Early Crusader preschoolers.

High schoolers earn scholarships to attend SEMO

Three Madison County students have been awarded scholarships to attend Southeast Missouri State University in the 2017-18 school year.

Edwardsville High School student Rylie Murray, of Edwardsville, received the Regents’ Scholarship, which gives her tuition for 30 credit hours per academic year. The 2016-17 value was $5,979 for Missouri residents and $11,364 for non-Missouri residents.

Collinsville High School student Kassidy Ashmann, of Maryville, received the University Scholarship, Midwest Achievement Award and Residence Life Leadership Award. She will get $2,000 and the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition to use toward her tuition. In the 2016-17 school year, the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition was $5,385.

Kassidy will also have $1,000 applied toward her residence hall fees.

Collinsville High School student Olivia Wojcik, of Maryville, received the Midwest Achievement Award, which gives her the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes