Filling shoeboxes with generosity 
 

Last week, leadership and art classes at James Martin Middle donated approximately 50 shoeboxes to A Child’s Place to help the needy during the holiday. Once a week, 11 Vance High leadership class students visit James Martin Middle’s leadership and art classes to mentor their eighth-graders on environmental justice projects. The schools have partnered to apply what they are learning and to make a positive impact.

The James Martin students collected and decorated shoeboxes filled with toiletries, gloves, scarves and other items for the homeless. To get help with donations, they wrote letters to local organizations and companies. They also reached out to students and staff to gather donations for A Child’s Place, which works to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education.

“Working on the shoeboxes was a great way for us to start working together,” said Skye Kanu, an eighth-grader. “They are showing us, by example, what a leader is and giving back to your community is a big part of that.”

The Shoebox Project is one of four that James Martin students will work on in partnership with Vance and MGR, a nonprofit that empowers youth to improve their communities, focusing on arts, environmental justice and health.

“The Vance students let us come up with our own ideas for our projects,” said Andrew Ramirez, an eighth-grader. “They work with us every step of the way but they don’t tell us what to do, they listen and make suggestions but ultimately we make the final decisions.” 

James Martin students benefited from the project and the mentorship they received from the high school students. They learned about community involvement and decision-making. They also built strong peer-to-peer relationships.

Senior Bre’Anna Washington added that she was impressed with the level of maturity that the middle school students showed throughout the process.

“These types of projects help students develop leadership and organizational skills,” said Jennifer Campbell, James Martin drama and leadership teacher. “It also teaches them to work as a team.”