These are a couple of photos of some of the 30 children at Fairview Elementary School in Bloomington who each received two pairs of shoes from SCCAP last week. One photos shows the flying paper and boxes as the kids excitedly put their shoes on. The other photo shows the children showing off their shoes together once they had them on.
The children had been fitted for the shoes a couple of weeks earlier by staff from Smith’s Shoes, which provided the shoes at a discount. While this was happening, some of the children said they’d never before been fitted for a pair of shoes, which seems like just one small but telling indication of a life with far fewer family resources than many of us experienced as children.
A bigger indicator is that many local children don’t have decent shoes to wear to school. Even in cold winter weather, many wear thongs, other cheap sandals or broken-down shoes with holes. If you think back to being a kid yourself, wearing shoes that looked obviously different or cheaper than those worn by other students would have seemed like quite an embarrassment for many of us.
But for some kids, this is their everyday experience. I wonder how that affects how they are perceived and treated by classmates and even some teachers, and more importantly how it impacts their perceptions of themselves, their abilities and their future.
I’ve heard that at Fairview there is such a strong majority of children who are from low-income families that it’s not as big of a deal if you don’t have the “right” shoes or “right” clothes, although I’ve also heard stories of many low-income parents who make tremendous efforts to find and afford clothes that make their kids look like everybody else’s at any school. Of course, clustering so many kids from low-income families together in one school contributes to putting these children at risk in ways far more significant than any perceptions driven by shoes and clothes.
But at least right now, this story of cool new kicks for 30 Fairview kids who were identified to have a strong need for decent school shoes is nothing but a happy one. Besides the thrill of trying on for the first time probably the best shoes they’ve ever owned, the children’s joy of wearing the new shoes at school has been obvious. One Fairview administrator said students have been coming up to her in the hall, one after another and time after time, to proudly show her their new shoes. It’s a small blessing in the bigger scheme of things, but for some of the kids who may not have much, it seems like a lot.