Since August 2020, educators Jesse Acosta and Alejandra Zendejas, co-founders of the nonprofit Pasos for Oak Cliff, have distributed over 1,000 pairs of shoes to students in the Dallas area to help them feel confident about the shoes they wear.
The Pasos for Oak Cliff team is dedicated to assisting students in putting their best foot forward, giving them the resources to walk through life with confidence.
The Spanish word “pasos” translates to “steps,” a nod to their Mexican heritage.
Acosta is a teacher at Justin F. Kimball High School in Oak Cliff, a Dallas community where most kids are economically challenged.
He knows how strong sneaker culture is to its pupils because he graduated. According to him, students with noticeably worn-out shoes and those who couldn’t keep up with the latest fashion trends were routinely ridiculed.
“My very first year as a teacher at Kimball, I had a student that when he would walk, his sole would just come apart from the rest of the shoe. The only part that was still glued was the front of it, right by the toe area,” Acosta told “Good Morning America.”
Acosta became resolved to assist pupils bullied at school because of their attire, as he had been in his childhood.
He teamed up with his girlfriend, Zendejas, a math tutor, fellow Oak Cliff native, and self-described sneaker nerd, to register Pasos for Oak Cliff as a nonprofit.
He began posting on social media and reaching out to his coworkers to locate financially disadvantaged kids. He also directly connects with schools throughout the Dallas region to organize shoe drives and identify students who could benefit from a boost in confidence.
“Not everybody can afford to be part of that sneaker culture. That’s not the student’s fault. That’s just a situation they are currently living in,” said Acosta. “We try to help other students who are economically disadvantaged right now because their parents may have lost a job to COVID or because they have come from a low-income household.”
Acosta and Zendejas enjoy shopping at Nike, their favorite brand, for sneakers for their giveaways. They hand-pick sneakers from outlet retailers with great discounts, with a budget of around $30 per shoe. Other times, they’ll strike it rich and buy high-end products on the secondary market.
Regardless of expense, the two stay up with the latest trends to provide pupils with shoe styles that they can be proud of.
Acosta and Zendejas used to buy the sneakers with their own money. Still, Pasos now relies on donations and an Amazon grant to expand giveaways to areas like Austin and San Antonio. According to him, the charity also intends to award $10,000 in scholarships to college-bound Oak Cliff students.
As Pasos expands, the co-founders hope to relocate into a building with additional storage space for the footwear and educational programs to a more significant influence in the neighborhood, abcnews reported.
“We’re just doing things and approaching the inequity gap a little differently from other nonprofits,” said Acosta. “We’re borrowing from and being influenced by the community that we live in, especially since we both love shoes. it’s worked out so far and we’re definitely blessed for that.”