Student Spotlight: South Portland Second Grader Finds Purpose Through Helping the Homeless


This isn’t just a story about a little girl who made a donation to the local homeless shelter, it’s a story about a little girl who didn’t like school and by finding her passion for helping people in her community, she also found a love of learning that supports her long-term goals for making a big difference in the world.

Meet Nicolette, a second grade student at James Otis Kaler Elementary School in South Portland. Nicolette has a tremendous passion for helping people who are homeless. She dreams of one day opening a restaurant and farmers market with a community garden where everything will only cost one cent. Her dream of making fresh, delicious food affordable and accessible to people who may find themselves without a home or income has been in the making since Nicolette was 5 years old.

While she continues to make plans for the restaurant, Nicolette has found a way to not only keep busy doing what she can now to make an impact, but she has also garnered the support of her classmates and her school community in making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

“My classroom with Mrs. Dudley as our teacher, we decided to work on keeping people living outside warm. We were thinking scarves,” explained Nicolette in a video interview with her Principal, Bonnie Hicks. Nicolette and her classmates have been working on crocheting scarves with the help of the school’s art program and a few teachers that have donated their time. The scarves will be donated to help keep kids warm during Maine’s cold months.

In addition, the students also took up a change collection raising $235.04, and used the money to put together bags with essential items that they could donate to the Preble Street homeless shelter.

“What we did was we had some bags at school. We went to the store one day after school and bought wipes, hand sanitizer, food, water bottles, and we bought chocolate because WHO DOESN’T LIKE CHOCOLATE?!” said Nicolet excitedly. The students also included clothing like socks, underwear, t-shirts, gloves, hats, and masks in the bags.

As they donated the bags, the students were delighted to hear that this kind of donation really helps the shelter with their outreach efforts as they walk the city looking for people who may need help. They later learned that the efforts of Nicolette and her classmates helped nine individuals.

Nicolette’s dreams and goals haven’t always aligned with her education journey. “I’m not afraid to tell you that Nicolette was not a lover of school,” said Kaler Elementary School Principal Bonnie Kicks. “But because of this passion and ability to use her heart and her head and her math and writing skills…”

“I got a lot stronger and decided I would go to school to finish doing more and more of these projects,” Nicolette chimed in quickly with a smile.

Principal Hicks said that they keep touch with the Preble Street Homeless Shelter and that Nicolette plans to one day do an internship and possibly earn college credit while doing so. Happy that Nicolette is already doing valuable work for them, the Preble Street Shelter is looking forward to working with her in the near future.