COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Thanks to two influential South Carolina women, kids in eight rural counties are starting this school year with a fresh pair of kicks.
Gov. Nikki Haley and University of South Carolina head women's basketball coach Dawn Staley partnered up this summer to collect shoes and school supplies for teachers and students who need a little extra help.
It was a partnership between Haley's Original Six Foundation, and Staley's Innersole. Supplies are going to some of the poorest counties in the state.
Haley reported Wednesday they collected over 6,241 school items and 550 pairs of shoes. Eighty-eight teachers' wish lists were also completely fulfilled.
Haley said it is gratifying to give back to students who come from rural communities, as she came from a small South Carolina community herself.
"At the end of the day we want to give them a hug and say we are so proud of you, and we can't wait to see what you end up becoming," Haley said. "As I saw them they had to go back to class, and I heard one of the kids say, 'we gotta get back to class, education's important!' At the end of the day they get it. And we just want to lift them up a little bit more so they can know they can be anything they want to be."
Staley also relates to the kids. She grew up in a poor community outside of Philadelphia, and knows that these kinds of efforts can make a lasting impression on young students.
"The bigger impact in helping those young people is they can one day be us," Staley said. "They can one day lead our state, they can one day lead a university, they can one day lead an entire country."
Staley also said she thinks there's something about a new pair of sneakers that breeds a sense of self-esteem.
"For me, when I grew up, I really didn't care what I looked like from my ankles up, if I had a new pair of sneakers I just felt different," Staley said. "My approach to the day was a lot different and I don't think it changes from forty years ago to today."
The kids who receive new shoes will also be a part of a year-long program through Innersole. With good grades and behavior, they will receive more than one new pair of shoes.
This also benefits teachers. Executive Director of the Original Six Foundation, Victoria Halydier, reports that teachers generally spend between $500-$1,000 out of their own pockets on school supplies each year.
With their wish lists fulfilled and the financial pressure lifted, it makes a lasting impression on them as well.