One of the best parts of being a small business owner is the opportunity to make a real difference in our community. Oftentimes it’s being able to offer free events for our community like self-defense classes, fun runs, coached track workouts, The Little Manchester Road Race and establishing a Shoe Library which provides sneakers for students and athletes experiencing financial hardships. Other times, it’s helping make other events successful, though with 200 races and organizations asking us for financial assistance each year, it is tough to decide which events to support.
In 2012, we made the decision that instead of giving a little money to a lot of organizations, we would focus our dollars to make a bigger impact. We created a scholarship called "Run to a Better Future" that provides $10,000 a year for four years to a student-runner from Capital Preparatory Magnet School in downtown Hartford, as well as a summer job at the store to help them earn money for books and gain valuable work experience.
Our first recipient was Shameal Samuels. In her application essay, Shameal wrote, "Growing up in an urban area where there are always crimes and someone going to jail, influenced me to stay out of trouble and work towards a goal so I can to make my dreams come true. I try my best in school and admit that there are times when I wanted to give up, but I did not. I have wanted to become a forensic scientist since I was a small child. I tell myself every day that I will do everything in my power to become a forensic scientist."
In May of 2016, Shameal graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Criminal Science. She excelled both academically (earning nearly all A's!) and on the track where Shameal broke several school records and was named as an Academic All-American, as well as Quinnipiac Athlete of the Year! She is the first in her family to attend – and graduate – from college. A true feat considering that her mom never completed high school. Shameal is currently pursuing her master's degree in Criminal Science and is on pace to make her dream of becoming a forensic scientist a reality.
Our second scholarship recipient is Kevin Rivera. Steph first met Kevin seven years ago at a summer running program for inner-city youth. She gave him a pair of sneakers, that combined with an amazing coach who cared for his athletes like his own kids, gave Kevin a platform to escape the cycle of poverty around him. Like Shameal, Kevin is the first in his family to attend a four-year university (Central CT State University).
To pay it forward, Kevin has volunteered to manage our Shoe Library so more kids like him will receive the gift of shoes that provide them with purpose, dignity and the courage to stay in school and out of gangs. If you want to be inspired, read Kevin’s acceptance speech when Asics awarded us a grant to fund our Shoe Library. Simply amazing.
This scholarship couldn't have been made possible if you didn't choose to shop at Fleet Feet Sports - especially when the big box stores and online giants may save you a few dollars and a gallon of gas. We like to think that we make up for it with a better, more personalized (and fun!) shopping experience and by investing our various resources back into our community. Together we are making a difference, one soul at a time!