A non-profit providing needy children with brand-name sneakers started by a pair of Oak Cliff educators is expanding.
Pasos for Oak Cliff is hosting summer sneaker giveaways across the state. They call it the Pasos for Texas Tour.
Dallas geography teacher Jesse Acosta and math tutor Alejandra Zendejas started Pasos for Oak Cliff during the pandemic.
“We started out by just giving out shoes,” said Zendejas.
“The first time that I talked to you it was supposed to be a one-time fundraiser,” said Acosta. “Here we are almost two years later giving out scholarships, doing summer programs and expanding to more of Texas.”
The couple spent part of the day going corresponding with parents over email, asking about their child’s shoe size, picking out a pair and packing them into a red or black backpack with their name.
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The sneakers are donated by the community or purchased by the couple with monetary donations. They’re new or very gently used. Some pairs even cost over $200.
They are sneakers many children can only dream of. Until now.
Each child, kindergarten through 12th grader, on the list to receive a pair of shoes has been referred to Pasos by a teacher, said Acosta.
The non-profit has already handed out 1,500 pairs of shoes, according to Acosta.
Pasos is now taking another step forward with the ‘Pasos for Texas Tour’ the month of July.
“We’re just trying to give back and helping students in Texas,” said Acosta.
The duo will be handing out approximately 100 pairs of sneakers in Austin this weekend.
Zendejas and Acosta are UT-Austin graduates.
They’ll also visit San Antonio, Fort Worth on July 23 and Oak Cliff on July 30.
A self-proclaimed “sneakerhead,” Acosta says he’s found school attendance and success often goes hand in hand with what’s on students’ feet.
He says some kids who cannot afford trendy sneakers, especially teens, are often too embarrassed to go to school, so they don’t show up.
“They’re able to go to school more because they’re in school they’re able to get better grades, they’re getting better grades, they’re just academically better students,” he said. “These shoes are really transforming their education level and it helps with confidence. Who doesn’t love a new pair of shoes?”
Both have stories from little ones they won’t soon forget.
“The little girl said: ‘I finally get some tennis shoes!’ She was wearing snow boots and it’s like 100 degrees outside. I just started crying,” said Zendejas.
Some children write letters to ‘padrinos’ or ‘godparents’ in the program.
“He wrote: ‘Thank you for making my dreams come true. I finally have a pair of Air Forces.’ Before that, he was wearing some construction boots handed down to him,” recalled Acosta.
Zendejas says their effort is only possible with the support of the community.
“This is money we fundraise from the community. It just works that the community allows us to do,” she said.
These educators vow to help more students start school on the right foot.
“I’m proud, but we haven’t done enough and I’m excited about where it’s going,” said Acosta.
The teacher dreams of one day opening his own school.
Pasos for Oak Cliff is always accepting donations of sneakers. The shoes must be new or in near-perfect condition.
However, Pasos will take gently used sneakers with a high-resale value. Acosta and Zendejas will sell them and use the money to buy new shoes or give one child two pairs of shoes: a new pair along with the older, used pair.
Pasos for Oak Cliff is teaming up with Centre sneaker boutique, SoleSavy and Four Corners Brewing for a fundraiser on July 16 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Centre on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas.
Last year’s fundraiser collected 465 pairs of shoes and $11,000 in monetary donations.
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