UVALDE, Texas – The annual Christmas at the College is a beloved tradition in Uvalde, and this year, they honored the 21 victims of the Robb Elementary shooting.
Thousands of Christmas lights illuminate the Southwest Texas Junior College (SWTJC) campus in Uvalde.
“Every year, you know, it grows, and you just -- it’s so rewarding to see the smiles on the little ones’ faces,” said Hector Gonzales, president of SWTJC.
Kids in the community roasted marshmallows, drank hot cocoa, and cheered as Santa came in riding on a firetruck.
It’s not Christmas without Santa riding in on a fire engine pic.twitter.com/IFj9jtbyrE— Leigh Waldman (@LeighWaldman) November 30, 2022
The most heartwarming tradition is the children performing in their choirs.
“I think it’s the choirs mainly, though. I really have to say that just because all the families come out and they’re so excited to see them sing,” said Jaclyn Gonzales, organizer of Christmas at the College.
Robb Elementary is missing from this year’s lineup, but another school stepped in -- Uvalde Elementary. It’s now home to several former Robb students.
“Without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Ms. Elaine Valenzuela and the Uvalde Elementary,” said Derek Sandoval, vice president of the college.
“It made me sad, honestly, to do this, but then I think about the other kids. And it’s important for us to keep celebrating and add some faith and hope and lets them know that we are a community still,” Jaclyn Gonzales said.
The 21 were honored Tuesday in prayer and a handmade ornament made by the college’s welding instructor -- Albert Ybarra.
“It’s in our minds every day. It could have been our kids, I’m grateful it’s not, but you know it very simply could have,” Ybarra said.
“You’re never over it. You just keep moving forward a little step at a time, but I mean, those lives will never be forgotten,” Hector Gonzales said.
“I think the 21 will be here in spirit,” Jaclyn Gonzales added.
The Gonzales family said they contemplated not putting on the event this year, given what happened at Robb six months ago, but they wanted the evening to be focused on joy and moving forward as one community.