From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
SHOES PROGRAM HELPS KIDS REMAIN DRUG-FREE,
05 May 1996 07:32:51
95006PRESBYTERIAN SHOES PROGRAM HELPS KIDS REMAIN DRUG-FREE,
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
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
"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 PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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