OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — When Yaw Obeng walks through the hallways of Compass Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri, the superintendent of Hickman Mills C-1 School District will undoubtedly talk to students about their shoes.
“It’s a good conversation piece when you see kids and say, ‘How’d you get those? Where did you get those?’ There’s always a story behind it,” Obeng said.
His story begins in Ghana, a country in West Africa. As a child, he remembers his mother would always make sure his clothes were in perfect shape before he left the home. In a picture from his fifth birthday, Obeng is wearing a suit with nice, black dress shoes.
“At that time, I think I was barefoot most of the time, and that was one of my first shoes,” Obeng said. “That was a special thing, like you had shoes.”
These days, Obeng prefers sandals — he’s even worn them to weddings and in the snow. While he maintains the dedication to fashion his mother instilled in him from a young age, above all he wants a shoe that is comfortable.
“They need comfort and support to get around,” Obeng said.
Much like his shoes provide him with support, he sees how having a good pair of shoes gives students in his district the support they need to succeed.
“If you can get good pair of shoes, even if you start with having a clean pair of shoes, that’s good,” Obeng said. “That helps in terms of building their morale, self-morale. You can see that in kids, when they have good self-esteem about them, they’re ready to learn.”
KSHB 41’s Gift of Sole campaign raises money to buy new, comfortable shoes for students across Kansas City. We’ve teamed with Urban Ranger Corps and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City to identify 300 students who can benefit from a new pair of shoes.
To donate, visit the campaign’s website.