Education

JMG and second-grader touch lives one pair of shoes at a time

CARIBOU, Maine — A second-grader at Caribou Community School is putting her best foot forward to help local youth, and the high school’s Jobs for Maine Graduates program is there to help.

Besides regular school supplies, kids need properly fitting shoes to help start their school year off right. When second-grader Laynee Kirby observed a student on the bus with less-than-adequate shoes, she wanted to do something about it.

Dr. ValerieAnn Waldemarson, JMG specialist at Caribou High School, said, “This project was born from the vision and heart of a young girl that is always thinking of others first. … “In late summer she shared with me that she was really concerned about another student on her bus that had holes in her shoes. She asked me if I could help her do something to make sure her classmates and other students always had good shoes.”

Waldemarson said she uses multifaceted, cross-curricular and project-based learning, emphasizing leadership, social and civic awareness, career development, community service and financial literacy — which made Kirby’s project a perfect fit. 

JMG will help equip Kirby with a business that will offer donated shoes to kids who need them. In the process, students will become more aware of needs within the community and learn some life skills. And Waldemarson will mentor a young person with a passion to serve.

The JMG class is helping Kirby design her own business, using the same format Waldemarson uses with the class.

“In partnership with Jessica Goodwin, the visual arts teacher at Caribou High School, we have cut wooden hearts that will accompany each pair of shoes that say, ‘Laced with Love by Laynee.’ These were created and cut utilizing technology at CHS and show students how to enhance their presentations utilizing technology available to them at CHS,” Waldemarson said.

Goodwin and her digital media class will help develop marketing material.

Donations are sought for shoes for students in grades pre-K -12. Any monetary donations received will be used to purchase shoes for students in need. 

“Each pair of shoes donated represents a child with more confidence, hope, self-esteem and joy. For children to reach their full potential, they need to feel good about themselves. Creating this confidence in children at a young age is empowering and critical to their future success,” Waldemarson said.

Donation boxes will be available at the front entrances of Caribou High School and Caribou Community School. Community members, CHS alumni and business owners have already pledged to donate new shoes to support this project. 

The Limestone Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons have made a donation through their “Masonic Angel Fund” to support the project, and local businesses have stepped up to support it as well. 

Donation boxes are set up at Haney’s and at both locations of All-Star Gymnastics.

Kirby’s mission has already reached beyond Maine’s borders, with Crocs of Colorado donating shoes.

Kirby will make her first public appearances on Wednesday, Oct. 13, and Thursday, Oct. 14, at the Caribou/Presque Isle soccer games. She will have her donation boxes set up at the ticket booth and by the concession stand for those who wish to donate.

“I am always excited to wear a new pair of shoes and I want other kids to feel that excitement too,” Kirby said. “I know that there are kids who have never had a new pair of shoes that fit them.  I have seen kids at my school this year with shoes that are too big for them or have holes.  I hope that getting a new pair of shoes that fit them helps them be happy.”

Brittany Kirby, Laynee’s mom, said she and her husband teach their children to be kind and compassionate.

“We want them to know the joy of giving and putting others before themselves. Sometimes we question whether or not they are learning the values we are trying to instill in them, then they surprise us and show us their hearts,” Brittany Kirby said.

She said Laynee couldn’t get the girl with holes in her shoes off her mind. 

“For weeks Laynee continued bringing up this girl and her desire to help those with poorly fitting shoes or shoes with holes,” she said.

Laynie and Waldemarson “came up with an amazing plan to help ensure that any student in her school district and beyond who needs shoes has access to a brand-new pair,” she said.

 “I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all of those partaking in this program.  I couldn’t be prouder of Laynee for seeing a need in her community, and playing a part in meeting that need.”  

Andrew Kirby, Laynee’s dad, shared his perspective. “An alarming number of our students suffer from anxiety, lack self-esteem, have low self-confidence, and overall feel unnoticed by people in their lives.  As the 2021 Aroostook County Teacher of the Year, I am trying to help educators realize the importance of building positive relationships with their students, which in turn opens doors to help students learn how to cope with many of these issues.”

When students feel safe and their needs are met, they can better focus on academics, and helping them in as many ways as possible should be a top priority, he said, and wearing shoes that fit and are not falling apart will help build students’ confidence to want to attend school.

“As educators we need to be intentional about building positive relationships with our students by listening to them, acknowledging and addressing their needs, helping them feel valued, and ultimately helping them feel empowered.”

To support the project, contact Waldemarson at vwaldemarson@rsu39.org or call Caribou High School at 207-493-4260.

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