LIGONIER — Going to kindergarten is scary, especially when parents or grandparents can’t walk little ones into school on their first day.
That was true for West Noble Primary first-grader Daisy Magallanes, who was frightened to come in the building on the first day back this school year.
But, quick thinking on the part of both Ligonier police and school administration made the day run smoothly.
With a pep talk and a Barbie doll as a gift, Magallanes was ready to face the first day of first grade.
“The Barbie doll definitely helped her calm down,” Primary Principal Brian Shepherd said. “You’re having a hard time and you get separated from mom, and we redirect. We say, ‘Hey, we have something for you.’ And that makes the transition a whole bunch easier.”
The Barbies passed through a few hands to arrive in Ligonier. Originally, they were donated to the national First Responders Children’s Foundation by Mattel, the dolls’ manufacturer.
Then, the First Responders Children’s Foundation donated a portion of the Barbies to the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, which then gave some to the Ligonier Police Department.
Out of those, 75 went to the Primary school, where School Resource Officer Jason Shearer said they have used them “quite a bit.”
“We let our guidance counselors know that if you’ve got a girl who is having a bad day, give her a Barbie. That’s what they’re for,” Shearer said. “Whatever makes it easier for whatever they’re going through.”
Shepherd pointed out that not only do the Barbies brighten the day of a girl who might be struggling, but they also show the community that everyone is looking out for its children.
“They trust you to do the best you can, and that’s just one way to show that,” Shepherd said.
The dolls themselves are special, too. These Barbies are career-focused, coming with accessories that lets girls employ Barbie as something like an engineer, veterinarian or doctor.
“A lot of little girls probably wouldn’t have access to something as nice as this,” Shepherd said.
Shearer said the Elementary school and Ligonier police are using the Barbies, too. Once, he saw a young girl who had been clawed by a rooster come to the police station with her parents and sisters.
Officers gave all three of the girls Barbie dolls. Shearer said it was “just like Christmas morning.”
“It’s worked every time we’ve used it,” Shearer said.
Overall, Shepherd said kids at the Primary haven’t been scared to come back to school, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The kindergarteners and first-graders wear masks when they’re supposed to and maintain social distancing on the playground, in hallways and in the cafeteria, Shepherd said.