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SHOES event help students share struggles and victories

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Shiann McGrann, a senior at East Carolina University writes "don't give up" on the Worthy Wall during the annual SHOES (Students Honoring Others' Struggles/Stories) event Thursday.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Friday, February 8, 2019

Shoes lined the mall on Thursday along East Carolina University’s main campus, each pair with its unique story.  

Next to a pair of silver flats, a note read “She didn't’ think she was good enough.  She felt like she needed someone to make her feel like she mattered. She hoped for someone special enough.” 

Another note beside an orange pair of flip-flops belonging to a girl named Lauren read, “ Lauren has a lot of struggles with who she is and is very sad all the time. She is very funny and kind.”

Then there was a worn pair of black leather dress shoes with a note that read, “This person has been struggling with clinical depression for the better part of their life.”

The event known as SHOES, which stands for Students Honoring Others’ Everyday Struggles/Stories, is a program intended to help ECU students who may be dealing with challenging times.

College students may experience depression, anxiety, stress, addictions or thoughts of self-harm, but may feel isolated and unable to manage their response, according to ECU officials.

“Our hope is that this program will help students with their struggles, providing them with education and resources, along with hope, encouragement, and positivity,” said Waz Miller, director of residence life. “We aim to help the campus community be more aware of mental health issues in adolescents and young adults and of the available services and resources.”

The SHOES project first took place 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 was shared with other campuses at the 2017 Association of College and University Housing Officers-International conference in Rhode Island.

Shayla Simmons, a junior studying animation, said the SHOES project is something that helps reduce the stigma of mental health issues.  

“There’s a lot of stigma behind mental health,” Simons said. “People don’t understand or want to understand what different things are going on.  I think it’s good they’re putting it out there in the middle of campus to have a discussion and educate people.”

Alexis Daniel, a nursing major from Charlotte, said she was surprised by what she learned of the SHOES project.

“I think it’s really eye-opening to see this kind of stuff because it’s not something you think about a lot or you talk about a lot, but it should be discussed more,” Daniel said.

“This is a very good way to get it out there,” she said.   

Spreading awareness of everyday struggles facing students is a major goal of the project according to Bailey Steckbauer, a residence hall coordinator at ECU.

“SHOES is an event we’ve had on campus for four years called Students Honoring Others Everyday Struggles, so our event today is helping promote that everybody is going through a struggle,” Steckbauer said. “And (it is) bringing more awareness and helping to debunk stigmas around mental health.   

“Also, a big part of the day is bringing positive messaging to students in the community as well as letting them know they are worthy and there is support behind them,” Steckbauer said. “People are encouraging them to continue on.”

In addition to the stories found alongside the shoes, post-it notes filled with positive words of encouragement and affirmation could be found all over campus. Students also had a chance to write positive messages onto a giant chalkboard. ECU buses also had positive messages displayed. 

“Events like this need to happen for students to understand we’re all going through a struggle as well as so many other people,” Steckbauer said. “That’s why we have so many different stories out there that are attached to the shoes.”  

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.  

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