50 pairs of shoes scattered across the quad: Students Honoring Other's Everyday Struggles

By Shauna Golden

Walking along the paths that criss cross over Quinnipiac University’s lush green quad, a pair of navy and tan plaid Sperrys sat unoccupied. Attached to the shoes was a laminated card with text on it. The card told a story about an anonymous individual. This specific story was about Amber, who works at an institution and teaches students self-love through events that engage students in the positive side of mental health.

Further down the stone paths, there was another pair of blue and white striped shoes with another story. And another. And another.

In total, there were 50 pairs of shoes with 50 personal stories scattered across the quad.

The shoes and the stories attached to them were part of a project put together by Quinnipiac’s Residence Hall Council, otherwise known as RHC. The project was called S.H.O.E.S., which stands for Students Honoring Other’s Everyday Struggles. S.H.O.E.S. was organized by sophomore Morgan Mattil and graduate student Liz Monroe.

The girls were first introduced to the idea for this project when they attended a national residence hall conference at Purdue University in May. They went to the program of the year, which was S.H.O.E.S.

 "So basically, there’s shoes that have a card attached to them that explains stories about people struggling with issues. It could be mentally, it could be physically, it could really be anything, just any type of struggle. And then it is tied off with what kind of shoe you would, like, say the person would wear,” Mattil explained.

Mattil and Monroe took this idea and implemented it onto Quinnipiac University’s Mount Carmel Campus. RHC, which usually puts on more fun and less serious events, decided that it wanted to put together something with a deeper, more serious tone.

“We mostly just have fun events where we have a budget and we buy the students food and we give them them prizes, we have some sort of entertainment...but we wanted to bring something meaningful back to QU, something that would be deeper. There’s more to it now,” Monroe said.

The event itself didn’t take that long to plan, as they already had the idea from the conference they attended. The longest and hardest part, however, was gathering stories that they could share.

Mattil and Monroe ultimately made the decision to collect stories for S.H.O.E.S. during RHC’s first event of the year, Hall Brawl. Participants of the event, if willing, were asked to fill out a sheet of paper.

“There was a sheet of paper that said S.H.O.E.S. and had the acronym about what it was and it said ‘I would like to honor this person’ and then it said you could make up a name if you felt more comfortable and then it said ‘their story is’ or something and you wrote their story and what shoes would best represent them," Monroe said, "So that was the hardest part and the longest part."

Mattil added that she believed students were more likely to share their stories with the anonymity factor. She shared that the names were not the meaningful part of the project, but rather, the stories that were being told were the most important part.

“It’s not about who it is, it’s more about the idea that you’re not the only one out there struggling with certain issues,” Mattil said.

Once they had collected stories, 50 of them to be exact, RHC’s PR chair went to Goodwill to gather shoes that could be spread out along the quad. She purchased 50 pairs of shoes for 50 cents each, each pair matching the style of the individual that had been written down on the sheets of paper.

Though some responses to the project varied, the event was successful overall. Several immature comments were made, though most individuals appreciated the project and understood the deeper meaning toward mental health awareness and recognizing you are not alone in your struggles.

“For all of our events we talk about how it’s quality over quantity, so those few people who really did get the message and saw these shoes and appreciated the message, that’s what we wanted. We wanted a true connection to reach out to those people who felt alone and felt like they needed support,” Monroe Said.

S.H.O.E.S. was used as an advertisement for Quinnipiac’s Fresh Check Day that will happen tomorrow, Oct. 5, on the Bobcat Way lawn from 12-3 p.m. The event is meant to raise awareness surrounding mental health and suicide prevention.

“Fresh Check Day is mental health awareness day and suicide prevention and they have free activities, free food...but it’s to promote mental health awareness,” Monroe said.

RHC will put on their next ‘bigger meaning event’, Fall in the Halls, during Parents’ Weekend. The meaningful event that will promote a generational discussion will take place in Complex Courtyard on the Mount Carmel Campus.

Both Mattil and Monroe expressed they, as well as all members of RHC, hope that these bigger picture events will start a movement on campus.

“Hopefully these small changes Quinnipiac will be receptive to, these big meaning events, because there’s a lot going on and we should be aware and support,” Monroe said.

QuinnipiacShauna Golden