Carson City school students step into new shoes

Stacks of boxes containing donations of new pairs of shoes wait to be delivered to Carson City schools on Wednesday at Big 5 Sporting Goods' South Carson Street location.

Stacks of boxes containing donations of new pairs of shoes wait to be delivered to Carson City schools on Wednesday at Big 5 Sporting Goods' South Carson Street location.

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Serenity Justesten and Ardyn McLaughlin, Empire Elementary School second graders, were all smiles at their new pairs of socks and shoes Wednesday, wriggling into them comfortably and getting help tying their laces.

Carson City School District’s McKinney-Vento Students in Transition “Step into Spring” program helped to deliver approximately 300 pairs of shoes this week, partnering with Big 5 Sporting Goods and incorporating donations from Harley Davidson Financial Services and St. Paul’s Lutheran Services.

Students in Transition assists youth without a regular, adequate home. The program provides them with essential clothing or items so they can be successful at school, according to the district’s special projects coordinator Peggy Sweetland.

“We do this every year and the kids absolutely love receiving the new shoes,” Sweetland said Wednesday. “They tend to do the happy dance after they get their new shoes.”

The shoes on average can last students about six to eight months, but students who are athletic tend to wear their pairs down more quickly and will end up lasting only about two to three months, Sweetland said. The goal is to be able to get a child or teen at least through the summer or early fall. Big 5’s shoes, however, have been of better quality, which has helped, according to district staff.

Students in Transition supplies students throughout the course of a year with backpacks, standard school attire, jeans, underwear, swim passes for the summer and it will pay for summer school as needed. Sweetland said she recently assisted a pregnant teen student with necessities.

“The sky’s the limit on what we can do, but sometimes we need a little longer to secure what we need,” she said.

The students themselves come from difficult circumstances, often moving multiple times in a month and living in temporary situations with friends, family or in motels, shelters, vehicles or outdoors along the river, Sweetland said.

“It’s unthinkable circumstances in some cases,” she said.

The program seeks to identify a child’s school of origin and secure transportation through Carson City businesses and keep them properly zoned.

Sweetland, a liaison for the program for 10 years, said she’s had more than 5,000 children come through the program.

“(There are a) lot of stories and a lot of sadness, but honestly, programs like this make a difference,” she said. “…But this is equally fun and exciting to watch when the kids do get their shoes.”

On Wednesday, Big 5, which provided the majority of shoes for kindergarteners through seniors in high schools who are part of Students in Transition, loaded up boxes of shoes that were designated for Carson’s schools. School staff collected the boxes and delivered them to the appropriate sites.

Big 5 manager Scott Norris helped cart the boxes out and said the sporting goods store always looks for opportunities to help where it can. Norris, who’s been with Big 5 for almost 16 years, started at Carson’s north store and became manager in 2011 before its move to its current location at 4219 S. Carson St.

“It’s just nice to know these kids are going to be able to have a new pair of shoes to start the spring with and not have to worry about if they get into inclement weather that there’s a hole on the bottom of them or something like that,” Norris said. “And this year we were able to donate socks. It’s just a great thing. … If your feet hurt, your day’s miserable, and I hope it does help them with their studies.”

At Empire, office staff members assisted three of their students with their shoes, who were excited and relieved to try on their new footwear.

Dori Draper, Carson’s only elementary school counselor, serves Empire and Mark Twain elementary schools, helped the students Wednesday to make sure their shoes were a perfect fit.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” Draper said. “It’s amazing how much something like the condition of your shoes affects your self-esteem and peer relationships, and when we see a kid who kind of gets introverted and quiet because they don’t want anyone to pay attention and then they get into their new shoes and it changes their posture, it changes everything. You have to see it to believe it.”


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