MEXICO — Two sisters were honored Friday at a Meroby Elementary School assembly for spending their money to help others this holiday season.

Third-grader Ella Young and fifth-grader Alana Young were presented with the first Above and Beyond Service Award from school staff. The girls bought gifts for Santa’s Helpers, the local animal shelter, the Hope Association, homeless people in the community and other less-fortunate people.

The daughters of Heidi Merrill and Ryan Young started saving their money from Christmas and birthdays gifts, the tooth fairy and bottle returns last year. They accumulated $487.

“They planned ahead with love in their hearts,” Principal Melanie Chasse said.

“We’re a service school and we have been teaching respect, safety, kindness and responsibility,” she said. What the girls did moved that philosophy into the community, she said.

Merrill said her daughters had wanted to help a friend get her wish in the Make a Wish Foundation program, but couldn’t. Instead, they focused on the less fortunate in the community.


“This makes me feel like my heart will explode,” Alana Young said after the ceremony while holding a bouquet of flowers from her father.

Ryan Young presented flowers to both daughters in colors that matched their clothing.

“They are amazing,” he said.

Santa’s Helpers coordinator Margaret McNeal hugged the girls as they presented her with toys for youngsters.

With tears, McNeal said the girls’ efforts were unbelievable.

“It’s amazing and so selfless,” she said.

The assembly also recognized students in pre-k through grade five for perfect attendance and doing well academically. The term “honor roll” is no longer used. Instead, students received certificates with the words, “On a Roll,” because of the switch to proficiency-based academic standards.

Student Council adviser Eileen Pew honored  students for helping unpack more than 100 boxes of food for the local food pantry, and fourth-grade teacher Shane Smith led his class in an updated, student-written “12 Days of Christmas” that included such things as iPads, iPhones and other electronic devices.

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