From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 07:32:51


                       IN-STEP WITH PEERS 
                         By Julian Shipp 
LUBBOCK, Texas--In a nation that cherishes material things, many 
elementary school children are forced to undertake a crash course 
in economics that epitomizes the discrepancy between haves and 
     To "be down" or "get in where they fit in," students enrolled 
in schools that don't require uniforms are under constant peer 
pressure to wear expensive, name-brand clothing, including athletic 
shoes that can cost $150 or more. 
     For children living in an at-risk neighborhood on the east 
side of Lubbock, Texas, wearing fresh footgear often means 
resorting to criminal activity like selling drugs, stealing or 
assaulting other children who have the coveted shoes.  Kids who 
distribute or sell drugs can afford to buy premium athletic shoes 
which other kids only wish they could afford. 
     Mindful of this dilemma, the session of Messiah Presbyterian 
Church confronted it toe-to-toe through "P.S.--Go For It," a 
Presbyterian shoes project designed to induce students at Iles 
Elementary School to stay off drugs and keep away from the dope 
dealer's fast-money lifestyle. 
     The program awards 54 children (three students in 18 
classrooms) a pair of expensive sports shoes for being an 
outstanding student, athlete or citizen. 
     Selected by their teachers, the students are given a 
certificate which they take to Footlocker or Kids Footlocker 
(located in their local mall) and select any pair of shoes they 
     The school's principal and staff are assisting the church, (an 
African American small-membership congregation of Palo Duro 
Presbytery), in implementing the program. 
     According to the Rev. Pam Powell, pastor of Messiah 
Presbyterian Church, the program was officially launched Jan. 9.  
 It was conceived last June during a meeting of the school's 
community involvement committee. Powell, the school principal, 
concerned parents, teachers and community leaders attended that 
      Astounded by the stories she heard there from teachers 
concerning gang activity and drug trafficking within the community 
and school, Powell was inspired to create the shoes program. 
     "One of the teachers said that they had a kid who bought his 
mother a car with the money from drugs," Powell said. "At one 
point, one of the teachers happened to say, `Well, the kids come 
on the playground with these expensive shoes and expensive bikes.'  
That sort of rang a bell with me and I thought, `Shoes -- maybe 
there's something in that.'" 
     Suzanne Christopher, school principal, said area dope dealers 
often recruit children to deliver drugs on their bicycles and 
reward them for their "courier services" through expensive gifts 
like athletic shoes, sports jackets, electronic games, bicycles and 
other items. 
     Christopher said she favors the Presbyterian shoes program 
because it allows the school's 360 students to see that desirable 
material things can also be obtained through positive, character- 
building endeavors like hard work, strong study skills, self- 
discipline and self-motivation. 
     To date, $5,500 has been raised for the program, including 
$1,200 from Messiah Presbyterian Church, $1,000 from the Mission 
Task Group of Palo Duro Presbytery, $2,000 from the PC(USA)'s 
Health Ministries Office in Louisville, and $400 from individual 
     Additionally, Powell said, Footlocker and Kids Footlocker 
offered shoe discounts of 15 to 25 percent. This is especially 
encouraging, she said, since the program requires 102 pairs of 
shoes per school year at a total cost of $11,000 annually. 
     Christopher said she and other school officials have not 
considered purchasing athletic uniforms for the students since (in 
addition to being more expensive than the shoes project) it would 
require total student participation in order to be effective. 
     The shoes program will be evaluated in May by Powell, one 
elder of the church, the major financial contributors, a 
representative from each major shoe supplier, Christopher and a 
committee of teachers and administrators. 
     If all parties are satisfied the program is successful, it 
will be continued the following school year.  Those involved 
believe the program will continue to give students the opportunity 
to remain well-heeled while challenging them to remain on the 
straight and narrow path. 
     "This is just an incredible thing," said the Rev. David 
Zuverink, associate for Health Ministries in the National 
Ministries Division. " We thank (Powell) and Palo Duro Presbytery 
for allowing us to share in this challenging ministry." 
     "I think it's really going to motivate the kids," Christopher 
said. "I think it's also going to be a super tool to show how the 
community can work with our school as well. I'm really excited 
about it." 
     "I hope it will be very encouraging to those kids who have not 
had a lot of advantages," Powell said. "Now, on any given day, 
there'll be 54 kids on that playground who are wearing these top 
shoes because they did something right."      
                         # # # 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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