Rapid City Area Schools partners with sponsors to hand out gift cards to homeless students

RAPID CITY, S.D (KOTA TV) - Most people donate toys to toddlers in need for Christmas.
But what about the homeless middle school and high school students?
First Interstate Bank partners with Rapid City Area Schools to make hundreds of homeless students smile this season by handing out gift cards.

This is Justice Norton. A 20-year-old homeless high school student who bounced home to home for three years. Norton says he felt special to receive a gift card last year.

"I was shocked. Like, me? Out of over 500 students at my school, me. This one person. I felt shocked and happy at the same time. I actually got something," says Norton.

Norton says he used the gift card to buy food for his number one priority, his family.

"Cause I know we're always low on food. Figures my family might need it more than I do," says Norton.

Rapid City schools expect the same amount of donations this year ... and hope to give 400 students each a 25 dollar gift card.

"The kids are just totally amazed to think that somebody else thinks about them at Christmas time," says Rapid City Area Schools McKinney-Vento Coordinator Anita Deranleau.

This is the first year First Interstate Bank is joining the program.
A Hope for Homeless account is set up to collect donations.
Deranleau says middle school and high school students tend to be overlooked during the holidays.
She says students come to her office with tear stained cheeks because they are so appreciative.

"It's hard to struggle and to wonder what you are going to do at Christmas time when you don't have a lot. So to think that they have something that they can purchase on their own. It means the world to them," says Deranleau.

Norton says he is thankful for all the people who donate and admire their kind hearts.

"I'm just very happy. Happy that people like that out there exist and are willing to help," says Norton.

If you want to help, there is still time. First Interstate Bank locations will be collecting cash and checks till December 8th. The radio station 97.9 the Breeze is a main partner with the program and has a link on their website for people to make online donations.