KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Earlier, KSHB 41 News sat down with six students at Southeast High School in Kansas City, Missouri, to talk about sneakers, the need for sturdy, good-fitting shoes and why it makes a world of difference to young people. Days later, KSHB 41 sat down with several adults who deal with children on an almost daily basis to get their take on what a pair of good-fitting shoes can do to increase self-esteem and confidence in the classroom.
Erik Dickinson, Urban Ranger Corps president: “With a good pair of shoes, you just think you can run faster, jump higher and you’re just awesome. I was surprised by just the level of meanness, just flat out going to bully someone about their shoes.”
Mark Bedell, Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools superintendent: “Me man, I’m like those kids. I was picked on. I got a pair of Jordache’s in the 8th Grade. My mother was supposed to get me a pair of Jordan’s, and I came to school and the man (on my shoe) was dunking upside down. And I remember sitting down in Spanish class and my pants went up, and everybody saw that, and you talk about being bullied. Either you just sit there and you laugh about it because you don’t want anyone to know your feelings are really hurt. And I remember that day to this day. Man, how they just picked on my shoes.”
Markelia Phillips is a counselor at Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy. She’s also seen the bullying and name-calling.
Phillips: “We have a great need. We service a lot of homeless students at our school. We’ve had kids that have come to school in football cleats because they had holes in their shoes. And then, of course, when you start working with that family, you realize everybody needs shoes. You have kids who come to school with holes in their shoes and then kids call them broke boy, broke boy.”
Jerren Thornhill and KJ Farmer employ teens at OnePair KC, where KSHB 41 had this discussion. They employ teens who run the business operation and set prices for shoes — shoes many of them at one time couldn’t afford.
Thornhill: “I feel like everyone deserves one pair of shoes. That’s our tagline. That’s our slogan. Many of our kids couldn’t afford those shoes, and they were quiet. Now they won’t stop talking. At first, they wouldn’t open their mouth because they didn’t have shoes.”
Sgt. Jake Becchina, Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department: “If people feel their needs are met, their basic needs, food, clothing, shelter, those things that may curb that desire or thought to go out and do some criminal activity. So that helps heal that whole society, that whole neighborhood.”
While some may not be able to walk a mile in these kids’ shoes, the hope is after this discussion you’ll help give these kids shoes to walk a mile in. The men and women involved in this discussion all agree it’s something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
Becchina: “I think we’re all kids at heart. And as a kid growing up, I had one pair. You put them on, and you still feel like a kid a little bit. You slip that on, and you still get that feeling. Everybody deserves to feel that.”
Bedell: “A nice, clean pair of shoes, where a kid will be able to navigate through the community, navigate through those hallways and just feel confident. That they don’t have something where their toes are rubbing the ground and things like that. It’s more than just a pair of shoes. It’s far more than just a pair of shoes, and I hope that people don’t underestimate that. You’re talking to somebody who’s scarred by that experience to this day. Scarred by it.”