All 400 Pre-K through 8th Graders at Sojourner Truth Academy in North Minneapolis were doing school at home, but in just a week they would finally return to the building for in-person learning.
“The timing of this is awesome. Normally kids get shoes at the beginning of the school year. But, they’re coming back to school next week and so all of our kids will have some new shoes to come back with. We’re really excited about this and to see their smiling faces,” said Julie Guy, Principal, Sojourner Truth Academy.
COVID-19 has prompted schools across the United States to adjust to virtual learning. But like Sojourner Truth, many are slowly and safely reopening now.
“We want to bring joy back into the classroom now that students are coming back in. This is the most important thing…so students can feel that excitement about coming back to school and learning again. The shoes are just one more thing that will help bring that joy to kids coming back into the building," said Guy.
Samaritan’s Feet has provided shoes to students at Sojourner Truth Academy for the last several years. But due to COVID-19, this year would look a little different.
Follow the journey of these shoes. We’ll start together in Minneapolis when other students in the area packed and prepped the shoes, then we’ll Zoom with students to tell them they'll be getting new shoes, and finally, we’ll make a few exciting home deliveries.
Come with us to Minneapolis.
This was the fifth year that Coach McKenzie brought his high school boy’s basketball team out to serve with Samaritan’s Feet. Today the task was organizing and preparing Hope Totes, which included new shoes and socks, a hygiene kit, and encouraging Hope Note, which would be delivered to students at Sojourner Truth.
“Shoes are so important right now, especially during this pandemic, because there’s not a lot of extra. Serving and giving shoes away can just take off a little bit of that burden, and that’s what Samaritan’s Feet does,” said Coach McKenzie.
McKenzie discussed the importance of serving together to give back to the community. So, the entire North Polars Boy’s Basketball team worked hard and together, packing 400 Hope Totes that would soon be distributed.
During the volunteer experience, Polars’ Junior Meiko said, “to me, serving means a lot because I know I can make others feel good through that.” Another Junior, Mario, said, “serving means giving back and showing others that you care about them. Plus, a new pair of shoes can just make you happy.”
Meiko and Mario were right—because these students were about to "feel good" and "happy" when they learned they were getting new shoes.
When she learned Samaritan’s Feet would be giving them shoes again she said, “I was excited because every year they give us these cute shoes. I respect that. I wear my new shoes every day.”
A few minutes later, she added, “I can’t imagine not having any shoes because if you have an outfit, you have to have shoes. It’s a good thing that they do that for us. They actually want to be nice to kids.”
It was evident that these students were excited that Samaritan’s Feet was returning. Sixth grader Q said, “Oh they’re coming back! If you don’t have shoes, getting them would bring more joy to their day because they would feel like people actually do care for them.”
The Zoom calls were filled with lots of smiles and favorite colors, but students also shared about what the shoes, and the kind gesture, meant to them.
First grader Mi Luv said, “It’s very helpful of them to give people stuff. It’s helpful because some people are poor and some people don’t get shoes. So people are grateful to get something.”
TO THE NEWS
“Many of our students live below the poverty line—98% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch which indicates they’re living below the poverty line. So, having basic needs is something that isn’t always met for our families. Giving them a pair of shoes is super important because they might not always get a new pair of shoes, or a pair of shoes that fit them,” said Guy.
She added, “Also, because of COVID-19, many of our families have lost jobs or have reduced hours at their jobs. So, their economic situation may be even more bleak than it has been in the past. So, this gift of new shoes takes just another necessity off the list for families.”
COVID-19 has impacted the United States in countless ways, but one of the bigger impacts is financial. Since May 2020, the number of Americans living in poverty has increased by 8 million (Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy, 2020.)
Guy added, “Shoes are important to everyone in the world, but especially our kids. We’re so excited because this is going to bring some additional joy to our kids.”
Samaritan’s Feet understands the needs have grown significantly in the United States. And due to COVID-19, the distribution methods may look a little different, like they did in Minneapolis. But we’ve got some new, exciting things planned that we will share with you in just a few weeks. Get ready to bring that joy, just like Guy said, to students as they return to in-person learning.