Classroom discussions inspire student to take action

By Rachael Rifkin
Staff Writer

In December and January, the students at New City School, a public charter school in Long Beach, learned about such legendary figures as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and Ruby Bridges. Inspired by both the human rights discussions at school and the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti, 7-year-old Kaleb Figueroa-Bland sprang into action. In just a week and a half, he organized a shoe drive at school and collected over 256 pairs for the children in Haiti.

“The message he heard at school was that one person can make a difference, and Kaleb wanted to make a difference,” said Kaleb’s mom, Kristin Figueroa.

Kaleb explained how he came up with the idea for the shoe drive.

“We saw pictures of ripped shoes in Haiti. It made me sad. Then, my mom and me were talking, and she said, ‘Maybe, we can donate shoes to Haiti’. And I said, ‘Yes’,” said Kaleb. “I had been thinking about the children in Haiti. I had been thinking about how they didn’t have any stuff, and I wanted to help them.”

Kristin had heard that Soles for Souls was having a shoe drive at Sports Chalet. She thought that Kaleb might be able to do his own shoe drive at school, and Kaleb agreed. He hoped his friends would be just as excited about helping the kids in Haiti.

“Kaleb and his mom came to me to discuss a project he wanted to share with everyone. I asked him if he wanted to announce it to his classmates because kids listen to kids. The kids were excited to help,” said Kaleb’s teacher Maggie Solorzano.

Both parents and kids were eager to contribute to the shoe drive.

“I think Kaleb realized that it was bigger than he originally thought it was going to be. Every day we came here and the little bin that we brought to collect the shoes was just overflowing,” said Kristin.

At the end of the shoe drive, Kaleb and Kristin turned the shoes into Sports Chalet, who was shipping shoes to Haiti for free until January 31st. But just because the shoe drive is over, doesn’t mean Kaleb is planning on stopping his donation efforts anytime soon. In fact, the only reason they ended the shoe drive on January 31st is because that was the last day Sports Chalet was doing the free shipping. Kristin and Kaleb are now looking for a corporate sponsor so he can continue to collect donations.

“He wants to do clothes next. He also wants to donate soccer balls because soccer is really important to the kids in Haiti. We saw this video on that showed how kids are getting plastic bags and using twine to tie it when it’s big enough to be a soccer ball. He was really shocked that that was what they had to use as a soccer ball. He plans to continue on collecting shoes too,” said Kristin.

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