Shoes for students, Maplewood teacher spearheads project for footwear

Published 3:29 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Maplewood Elementary teacher Leslie Barlow is on a mission. After she got a phone call from someone who offered to meet the most pressing need of students at her school, she polled parents. Their answer was shoes and socks.

“I started measuring these kids, 553 of them,” Barlow said. “This is not the same community as it was when I began teaching 29 years ago. It was humbling. The children from second grade and up were very timid about being measured.”

They knew as soon as it was their turn, Barlow was going to get a close look at their feet.

“When they took off their shoes, it wasn’t just the condition of their shoes I saw, but their feet as well, their toenails. Some had sores. And it wasn’t just a small part of the school’s students. It was eight out of 10,” she said.

What she thought was going to be a little project has become an ongoing concern. When she taught summer school, she realized it wasn’t just a Maplewood Elementary problem. The storm and pandemic impacted the well being of students at other schools. She also saw a gap in help for the working poor.

“We don’t know every child’s story, how COVID has impacted their parents’ income or what their insurance company will or won’t pay to rebuild or repair their home. Right now our families are making some hard choices,” she said. “We want to help them handle this burden.”

Research has shown that before learning can begin, basic needs have to be met, according to Barlow.

“As an educator, I know the importance of learning,” she said. “As a teacher, I’ve got to make changes to sustain learning.”

Here’s how to help Barlow help more students at Maplewood and at other Southwest Louisiana schools: Donate shoes, socks or money. Shoes can be dropped off and money deposited to an account at CSE Credit Union. To find out more go to Shoes for Students Louisiana, Inc. Facebook page or contact Barlow by emailing shoesforstudents.la#gmail.com or by calling 337-888-0509.