Benton Middle School students buying shoes for kids in financial need
Jacan Earnest, a Benton 7th grader, and four other students in the school’s Destination Imagination program were assigned the task of coming up with a team project to implement and see through to completion in the current school year. They came up with DI Project Sole as a way to raise money to provide shoes to students in need.
Earnest said there are more students in need than one might suspect. He said students who will be eligible for help through the program are those same children who are eligible for free or discounted school lunches. Earnest said 37 percent of Benton Middle School students were eligible for that lunch program in the 2009-2010 school year. With a current student population of approximately 720 in the sixth and seventh grades, that means approximately 266 students could be eligible for help under DI Project Sole assuming 37 percent of the children are eligible for the lunch plan in the current academic year.
Earnest said the Destination Imagination team has set an initial goal they believe is obtainable — they’re out to raise $500 to purchase 20 pairs of shoes. The team has already rounded up some community support in that Helping Hands and Caring Hearts has signed on to be the financial partner in the enterprise and Snazzy Pizazzy has joined up as the team advice partner. Of course, there is plenty of room for more community sponsors and the team is hoping some other organizations will join the effort.
Earnest said the team is looking for more partners and is also looking for financial support from the community. The group has raised over $200 since the first of the school year and is in the process of approaching members of the community in hopes of boosting that total through donations. Those interested in learning more about the project and perhaps donating to the effort can download a brochure here, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (501)315-2806. Also, written correspondence can be directed to DI Project, Benton Middle School, 204 N. Cox, Benton, AR 72015.
Why focus on providing shoes to students? Earnest — the co-designer of DI Project Sole — said the answer is simple enough.
“We didn’t like seeing people around with broken shoes,” he said. “We knew there was a community need.
“This is for the students and by the students. … Benton Middle School students often get overlooked. We wanted to help the Benton Middle School students and, as we get in higher grades, we’d like to help there, too.”
Earnest said the team has put a priority on maintaining the anonymity of shoes recipients. He said shoes are given to the school counselor and will be privately donated to students. Children and parents, when shoes are available, will be able to request a pair through teachers or the counselor, Earnest said.
Earnest said he hopes the program will make a meaningful difference to the students who will benefit from it.
“New shoes give self confidence,” he said. “New shoes make a difference. … Comfortable feet are happy feet.”
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.