SHOES project helps give students a lift
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, February 12, 2017
East Carolina University seized on the symbolism of a pair of shoes last week to offer a show of support for students struggling with mental health issues and hardships at home.
The second annual Students Honoring Others’ Everyday Struggles, or SHOES, project uses shoes to symbolize real problems that real students are facing daily to demonstrate that no one must struggle alone, organizers said.
Students involved with the project brought 400 pairs of shoes to the campus mall near the cupola from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday to help students who may be dealing depression, anxiety, stress and thoughts of self-harming but may feel isolated and unable to manage their response.
“Our hope is that this program and its profound effect on helping others with their struggles, providing them with education and resources, along with hope, encouragement and positivity, will help the masses in being more aware of mental health issues in adolescents and young adults,” said Waz Miller, director of residence life.
The SHOES project was first held in 2016. It won the state and regional Program of the Year award from the South Atlantic Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls, and went on to be chosen as the Program of the Year by the National Association of College and University Residence Halls. The program will be shared with other campuses at the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International conference in Rhode Island in June.
Each pair of shoes was attached to a story of someone struggling with a family situation, medical condition, mental health issue or other obstacles. The stories were collected from ECU students and students from Hope Middle School.
In addition to the shoes on display, the So Worth Living student organization erected the Worthy Wall, a chalkboard where students wrote down the reasons why they are worthy of being loved. Student radio station WZMB 91.3 FM broadcasted live during the event.
ECU students and staff also distributed positive messages on buses and in campus buildings during the SHOES Project. They also manned a resource table, and the Center for Counseling and Student Development had a counselor on site for participants who wanted someone to talk to in a confidential setting.
New this year were a giant purple bear named Soks and a sculpture created by ECU art students, which provided a backdrop for photos. Participants shared their photos and thoughts using the hashtag #ECUSHOES.
“This is a time of year when students may get stressed, lonely and need a lift,” Miller said. “This is a collaborative effort to bring more awareness to mental health and other issues which college and younger students are facing.”