Caitlyn Lansing has many passions, and working with children is high among them.
“She is very concerned about other people, she’s warm, she’s caring and she loves kids,” said her mother, Jody.
Among the 16-year-old Caitlyn’s outlets for helping kids is Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun’s Temple Tots program for pre-kindergarten-age children, in which she and her mother have taught since its inception three years ago. It is a once-a-month program held on Sundays.
“We essentially take a holiday theme and talk about how the family can get the little ones into the holiday,” said Jody, a third-grade teacher at Milwaukee Jewish Day School where Caitlyn spent sixth through eighth grade before graduating to Homestead High School. “Caitlyn helps come up with projects that can be meaningful to families, and works one-on-one with the kids,” Jody said.
“I love helping them learn and grow and have fun each class,” Caitlyn said.
Rabbi Toba Schaller, Director of Lifelong Learning at CEEBJ, 2020 W. Brown Deer Road, River Hills, gives Caitlyn high marks. “Watching her help while allowing the children to do the work themselves is inspiring,” Schaller said. “So often adults help by doing it for the children, but Caitlyn instantly knows how much to help without taking over. She is creative, patient and endlessly enthusiastic.”
As programming vice president, Caitlyn is a founding board member for Milwaukee’s new citywide Reform youth group, MITY (Milwaukee Temple Youth). “She has convinced other teens to be part of it and is working hard with other board members to plan events and activities,” Schaller said. “She never lets anything fall through the cracks, and she always stays positive.”
Caitlyn’s bat mitzvah project three years ago was working with Special Olympics swimmers, which she did for two years until a scheduling conflict prevented her from continuing. Caitlyn has been on the varsity swim team at Homestead for three years, placing fourth in the breaststroke at the conference meet this year and qualifying for the 2015 state meet with her medley relay team.
“Swimming is a huge part of me,” Caitlyn said. “I love it so much and I wanted to share with others. I have loved every minute of (Special Olympics). That experience will stay with me the rest of my life.”
Caitlyn, a junior at Homestead, plays clarinet in the school band and is an exceptional student.
“She has a great head on her shoulders, she works very hard and always wants to do her best,” Jody said. To which Schaller adds, “She is responsible and mature, detail oriented, energetic, engaged and patient.”
The Lansing family, which also includes father Richard and Caitlyn’s 13-year-old sister Taliah, is active at CEEBJ, where Jody’s family has been members going back to Jody’s grandparents. Caitlyn chanted from the Torah on Yom Kippur the past two years.
“Judaism has had a big impact on my life,” Caitlyn said. “I watch my parents and grandparents and their involvement, and I want to see what I can do for our temple.”
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The Chronicle is featuring eight Jewish teens who give back to their community – one for each Chanukah candle! Is there a synagogue, community or teen you’d like to recommend for our next Teen Leaders project? Let us know at Chronicle@MilwaukeeJewish.org.