Sometimes little things mean a lot.
Especially if you’re a 11-year-old kid who moved unexpectedly away from friends during the holidays and didn’t get the chance to share an end-of-school tradition that you’d always looked forward to.
Such was the case for Jevin Lindsay, who entered Stone Elementary as a kindergartner six years ago and fully expected to “graduate” to middle school – just as his brother had.
But life and job promotions sometimes interfere with the plans of little boys. Which is why Jevin and his family packed up their belongings and moved last Christmas Day to Pryor, Okla.
“Their whole world was completely shaken up,” Ladina Lindsay said by telephone this week of her two sons, Jevin and older brother, Jarren. “Jevin was sad to leave his friends but his father was offered one of those chance-of-a-lifetime job opportunities. We had to make the move.”
The Lindsay boys gradually settled into new lives and new schools in Pryor.
But Stone Elementary was on the former Hobbs boy’s mind during the last week of school.
“My sons are only 362 days apart so Jevin knew about the tradition,” Ladina explained.
The Stone tradition goes something like this: Prison inmates build Stone Stars out of plywood for each fifth grader, then paint them and emblazon them with the student’s first name. During the last week of school more than 60 Stone Stars are lined up in the grass in front of the school for younger students to admire and aspire to one day have as their own rite of passage. On the final day and following a fifth-grade banquet and awards assembly, “graduating” students walk outside to pick up their personalized Stone Star. Proud parents snap photographs of their child’s milestone moment and then the kids take their stars home and tuck them in a corner with fond memories of elementary school days.
Jevin was keenly aware of the tradition because his older brother’s Stone Star had a place of honor at the Lindsay family’s new home in Oklahoma. And so it was with some sadness in May that Jevin looked at Facebook photos of his old classmates and their Stone Stars. “Man, I was five months away from getting my own star,” he told his mom.
“I thought about that and made the decision to reach out to his teacher, (Andrea) Rodriguez, on Facebook,” Ladina said.
Rodriguez – a fifth-grade teacher who had both Jevin and Jarren as students and fondly recalls their good manners, kind hearts and the yellow roses they would sometimes bring her – didn’t hesitate to act when Ladina contacted her.
Rodriguez tracked down a leftover plywood star in a Stone storage room, painted it, carefully lettered Jevin’s name and then mailed it to Oklahoma. “I just felt like it was the least I could do to make Jevin feel as special as he always made me feel,” she said.
Back in Oklahoma, a mother who made the difficult choice to uproot her sons was touched by teacher’s effort.
“Honestly, it makes me a little emotional to talk about it because (Mrs. Rodriguez) was just like, ‘Leave it to me. I’m going to get that done.’ She wouldn’t take any money,” Ladina said. “When the package arrived with his name on it, Jevin was surprised because it was so big. ‘This is mine?’ he asked.
“And when he opened it, he was so surprised and happy,” she added. “I took a picture. And you can see all of his happiness in that picture – it wasn’t a posed smile that kids give you sometimes. It was really one of those heartfelt moments of joy.’”
Ladina posted that picture on her Facebook page and made sure Rodriguez saw it. “My students bring me so much joy so seeing that happiness in their eyes - whether it be from learning in the classroom or receiving a yard sign - is worth every penny,” Rodriguez said.
As for Jevin’s Star? “We’ve got it in our front yard in Oklahoma right next to Jarren’s,” Ladina said. “Jevin loves it.”
Sometimes little things mean a lot.