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Pay It Forward: North Clinton Elementary helping students start the school year on the right foot

When two educators noticed a big need at their elementary school, they decided to do something about it so every student had a chance to come to school in nice shoes.

Clinton — Across from the first-grade drawings hanging in the hallway at North Clinton Elementary School, there's a classroom that's become something more like a shoe store.

Dozens of tennis shoes in varying colors, sizes, and brands, cover the tables and overflow onto the floor.

Principal Monica Rael says they were all donated by the community, and students who need a pair can walk in and pick one out.

"If your toes are wet or cold or dirty or you have other things on your mind, you’re not going focusing on math or science. So, we want to make sure they feel good about themselves and that they feel clean, happy and loved," Rael said.

The idea behind the initiative that they're calling, "Step Off on the Right Foot," started during the last school year.

"[There was] this little kindergarten girl who wore the same pair of cowboy boots all year long, and we noticed she was walking a little funny. The shoe's soles had separated from the boot. So, I went to see if we had any shoes. We had two pairs of shoes and after hoping one would fit, we got a match and put them on. Her delightful little response was, ‘my toes aren’t squished anymore.’ We were just as warmed by that as anything else. So, when Ms. Jordan approached me about this, I said we have to do this," Rael said about the idea behind "Step Off on the Right Foot."

They asked for donations of new or gently used tennis shoes, and the community stepped in to help. "We got an immediate response," Rael said. "It would be great if we could continue to do this, just to know that kids could walk in the door and step off on the right foot and feel confident and focus on what we're doing here which is to learn and grow every day."

The school is nestled in a community where sometimes money is tight, and families can't always afford to purchase new shoes for the school year.

Amber Richards, a parent of a first grader, says she was so grateful to hear about the school's new initiative.

"Sometimes I don’t have the money to get him new things, and for the school to be able to help out is really a good thing," Richards said, adding that her son couldn't wait to show off his new tennis shoes when he got home from school. "As soon as he got in the car, he said, 'Momma, Look I got new shoes!' So yeah, he was excited."

This is the first school year for the program, and parents at the school can fill out a form to request a pair that's donated by members of the community.