KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dr. Yaw Obeng can’t help but look at the shoes of students at Hickman Mills C-1 School District in Kansas City, Missouri.
The superintendent sees kids with athletic shoes, shoes built for comfort, seasonal boots, brand-name shoes, stylish shoes and just about everything in between.
“Look at these shiny, glossy, sparkly things,” he said pointing to one student’s shoes at Compass Elementary.
For Obeng, who is known in the district as a well-dressed man, shoes are nostalgic. He was born in Ghana, Africa. His family traces its lineage to the Asante tribe. While visiting the West African country this summer, Obeng purchased a custom pair of Converse All Star shoes made from traditional Kente cloth, symbolic to the Asante.
“This pattern is a pattern that says there are no more patterns to be made. It’s got an abundance of shapes. You usually wear that for a formal ceremony for cool events,” Obeng said, describing the cloth.
The superintendent has yet to wear the shoes, he’s still waiting for the right moment — that special ceremony, “cool event” or maybe graduation would be a good time to wear them, he says.
A lot of the students in the Hickman Mills district don’t have the luxury of deciding when to wear a pair of shoes. They rely on one pair for school, special occasions, sports and bad weather.
“You saw one student said he had two different pairs of shoes, so he’s fortunate to be able to have that,” Obeng said after visiting a classroom.
KSHB 41 News’ Gift of Sole fundraiser collects donations to buy shoes for children with Urban Ranger Corps and Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City. Organizers say the right shoe can boost the confidence and self-esteem of a child. Having a good pair of shoes makes it less likely for a bully to pick on a child. It gives a child peace of mind to focus on school.
Obeng says shoes are essential in school, because so much of today’s lessons involve students getting up out of their seats to dance, to meet in small groups or to simply move.
“Learning is movement, kinesthetic, it’s not just sitting down,” Obeng said. “The kids like to move, so they need to come to class prepared.”
KSHB 41 News is hosting a Gift of Sole gala Thursday, Oct. 27. The event is sold out, but you can donate to the cause and virtually bid on silent auction items by visiting the fundraiser’s website. In its inaugural year of 2021, Gift of Sole collected more than $40,000, which was enough to buy 850 pairs of shoes.