Allyson Partridge was honored along with four other Columbiana-area students with a Character in Action award on March 16, and with good reason. In addition to being a good student and outstanding role model at Elvin Hill Elementary School, Partridge has recently organized a successful shoe drive which will benefit poverty-stricken orphans, school children, and adults in the Migori community of Kenya.
Partridge was first motivated to start the project, entitled (S.O.S.) Shoes Over Seas, after completing a research project in Martha Bentley’s Gifted Resource classroom. Partridge chose to research poverty for her project where she learned of people whose basic needs go unmet each day.
“She was especially moved to find that children in parts of Africa and South America are not receiving proper nutrition and do not have shoes to wear to school,” said Bentley. “This motivated her to take action. She has designed a Type 3 project (Renzulli model) in order to benefit the lives of others.”
Bentley shared that one of the exciting results of Partridge’s project is that she is not only impacting lives at Elvin Hill Elementary but also the Columbiana community and Birmingham area. To date, Partridge has collected over 170 pairs of shoes and 250 Bibles, which she also plans to share with the children in Kenya.
“While the recipients of the collected shoes are more than 8,000 miles away, Allyson has lit a spark among the students here,” Bentley said. “They are responding proactively to her leadership by offering to help her design posters and flyers, and by enthusiastically offering to participate in the collection process. She is modeling empathy for others, but also modeling that true empathy results in acting compassionately.”
“Allyson has a compassionate heart, and I believe that it is – in part – her strong sense of fairness that drew her to create and organize the S.O.S. project to send shoes and Bibles to children overseas,” Bentley continued. “She could not accept the fact that children in other parts of our world cannot go to school because they have no shoes to wear. She was spurred to action by the realization that families in Africa are struggling to meet the most basic of needs.”
Bentley, along with Patridge’s classroom teacher Ashlee Cole, said the fifth-grade student is very persistent and tries to persevere even when she encounters obstacles. The S.O.S. project has not been easy and she has run into numerous obstacles in planning, some of which seemed insurmountable.
“It has truly been an experience in tackling a messy, ill-defined real-world problem,” Bentley said.
Partridge had to address many issues to address in her project including: identifying and country and individuals who were in need of shoes; getting administrators at her school to approve her project and finding ways to involve fellow students; marketing the project; finding storage for the shoes; and a method of shipping, delivering and distributing the shoes overseas.
Partridge narrowed her focus to Kenya, Africa after researching a number of countries. Her initial attempt to partner with the Gideon Organization turned into a dead-end and then a period of waiting to see if the project would even work out. During that time, Partridge continued to do her research and look for other opportunities.
Ultimately – with the help of her father – Partridge connected with a relief organization called Kenyarelief.org in Cullman who just happened to be shipping a large cargo crate to Kenya in late spring. They have welcomed her donation of shoes and will be including her donation with that cargo crate and charging no shipping costs. The relief organization will also distribute the shoes to orphans and other school children they work with in the Migori community of Kenya.
The administrators at Elvin Hill Elementary were fully supportive of her idea and allowed Partridge to advertise her project throughout the school. They have also designated a storage area for the shoes during the three-week shoe drive.
Partridge has had to overcome her shyness and fear of speaking in public to assume a leadership role in making this project a reality. After making a presentation to school administrators, she then took the lead in contacting both organizations she was seeking assistance from for the project. She also created a created a PowerPoint and made a public presentation to share with her local church.
Next week, she will appear with her father on local radio station WDJC 97.3 to talk about her project and ask for public participation as she is now taking the shoe drive public. Starting March 22-25, she will be collecting shoes and Bibles at Sanctuary Bookstore in Alabaster. In all of these efforts, Allyson has been the driving force and has stepped so far out of her comfort zone that the adults in her life, including her parents, find themselves stepping back in amazement at the courage and determination of this inspiring ten-year-old girl!
“In all of these efforts, Allyson has been the driving force and has stepped so far out of her comfort zone that the adults in her life, including her parents, find themselves stepping back in amazement at the courage and determination of this inspiring ten-year-old girl,” said Bentley.
Partridge received a letter on March 9 from United States Congressman Gary Palmer who applauded her for her “extraordinary achievement” and “leadership” in raising support for the S.O.S. project.
“Your story is one of true compassion put into action, and show be an inspiration to your community,” Palmer wrote. “It is my hope that through your dedication, many children will find opportunities to improve their lives. Thank you for being an example to your community of transforming one idea into a reality that helps others’ dreams come true.”