SAN JOSE -- Every year, students in Debbie Stein's classes at Ida Price Middle School bring small gifts for a "secret Santa" exchange. This year, eighth-grader Andrew McBain suggested that instead of giving to each other, students should donate the presents to Sandy Hook Elementary students in Connecticut.

"I was overwhelmed by that thought," said Stein, who is from Connecticut. "They are adolescents, a time in life not usually associated with being selfless."

Students in all five of Stein's classes -- English, history and drama -- voted to send their gifts to the school where a gunman killed 20 students and six adults last week.

The Ida Price students will bring in gifts they think appropriate for an elementary-age child before school lets out Friday for winter break. Stein said the school will pay for postage. She plans to mail them after Christmas to a Sandy Hook elementary post office box.

Stein said she did not inquire with Sandy Hook about sending items. Even though Newtown has requested monetary donations, Stein said the post-office box was created to accept donated items.

Normally the middle-school students exchange candy, pens, gag items or knickknacks worth $5 or less, Stein said. "The fact that they chose to donate the gifts to help uplift the lives of children suffering through tragedy demonstrates the kind of empathy we want from everyone at any age."

Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.