Prefirst teacher Mary-Catherine Irving has been teaching her students the value of service and encouraging them to care for others for the entriety of her 20 years at McDonogh. For the last eight years, Laya Neelakandan '20 has been right by her side, aiding her with her many intiatives to help Baltimore's homeless, including assembling and distributing winter hygiene kits. Monday, February 10 marked the end of an era as Laya participated in her final assembly of the kits before she graduates this spring.
Laya wrote her first grant proposal when she was in the fourth grade. She secured the grant and its funds were used to purchase socks and gloves which were included the kits. Ever since, Laya has been writing grant proposals, securing funds, and helping Irving collect supplies. The grants are also supplemented by donations from prefirsters who contribute money that they earn at home by doing chores.
On Monday, Laya led prefirst and Jennifer Mollet's K3 class in creating the winter hygiene kits. First, students decorated reuseable bags with joyful images and messages and then they filled them in assembly line fashion with toiletries, gloves, scarves, snacks, and other supplies to help the men and women living on the streets of Baltimore through the rest of the winter.
While Laya's time helping Irving may be coming to an end, her legacy will live on. Laya has been mentoring several fourth grade students, passing the torch to a new generation of servant leaders. Learn more about that story in the uopcoming edition of McDonogh Magazine.