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  MONMOUTH, Ill. - Two Monmouth College student-athletes took time off from final exams Tuesday morning to deliver some holiday cheer to those less fortunate in the Monmouth community.
      Junior communication major Samantha Barranco (Vernon Hills, Ill.) and freshman business major Joe Ward (Cherry Valley, Ill.) represented the college's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in delivering gifts from the fourth annual SAAC Angel Tree to the Warren Achievement Center in Monmouth. For the past three weeks, area residents were able to select an Angel from the tree and purchase gifts to be distributed to special needs youth and adults through Warren Achievement.
      The more than 20 "angels" were picked up by the end of last week and by Monday evening, the lobby in the athletic offices in the Huff Athletic Center were brimming with brightly colored packages ready for delivery.
      "I was really surprised by the response," said Barranco, who was recently named All-Region for women's soccer by a national coaches' organization. "Not only the number of gifts, but the size of the packages. There are a lot of good-hearted people in Monmouth."
      For the student-athletes at Monmouth representing 20 varsity sports, taking time out from a hectic week of finals exams before the winter break to help others was nothing out of the ordinary.
      "My mother works with persons with disabilities and my sister is in childhood development," explained Ward, who will be running track this spring. "Just because someone has a need different than our own, doesn't mean they should be treated any less. We're really all the same."
      Ward's sentiment echoes the Monmouth philosophy of learning outside the classroom as well as inside.
      "The students learn through our Citizenship courses, but with SAAC's Angel Tree, they're able to put what they've learned into practice by helping others," said SAAC advisor Melissa Bittner. "Isn't that what it's all about?"
      That might be one final exam Barranco, Ward and the other 18 members of SAAC are passing with flying colors.
 

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