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North Trail sneaker drive has the smell of success

Ever wonder what to do with those old, dirty, stinky, smelly tennis shoes? Just ask any North Trail Elementary School student - they'll take 'em.

At least, for the next 10 days or so, they'll take them.

NTES students are hoping to find as many pairs of old tennis shoes as possible. There's extra phy-ed time in it for them.

Through May 13, North Trail Elementary students are collecting old tennis shoes for the GreenSneakers EcoChallenge for Education. For every pound of tennis shoes collected, GreenSneakers will pay 50 cents. The company will also pay $20,000 to the school that collects the most tennis shoes in a three-week period.

NTES principal Dr. Steven Geis heard about the program, then passed it along to the school's Parent-Teacher Partnership. PTP vice president Melissa Jones stepped up and coordinated the event.

The drive started April 25. Each grade has a bin for shoe collection. A letter explaining the program was sent to parents ahead of time. Once the program started, it didn't take long for those bins to be filled.

In the first three days, students brought in 262 pairs of shoes weighing more than 300 pounds. Jones and PTP president Traci Cywinski collect the shoes. Even though the school is paid by the pound, the two weigh and count the pairs donated.


The PTP has challenged each grade to collect as many pairs of shoes as possible, Jones said. Even though it's the weight of the shoes that counts for the money, Jones and Cywinski know a pair of shoes worn by a kindergartner isn't going to weigh as much as a pair worn by a fifth grade student.

By establishing a challenge where the grade to collect the most pairs is declared the winner, all of the grades have an even chance, Jones said.

An even chance for what? Well, the grade that collects the most shoes gets to have an extra hour of phy-ed time.

"That is huge to them," Jones said.

Jones and Cywinski figure the school will hold a program to announce the winning grade once the drive is over. At that time, they're also hoping to show the students just how many shoes were donated, by piling all of those shoes up in the gymnasium.

A lesson learned

It turns out tennis shoes don't break down well in landfills. By piling up all the shoes collected, the PTP members hope to help the students understand just how much of an impact they've made on the earth.

"We want them to know they can make a difference. Even though they're little people they can make a difference," Cywinski said.

The difference doesn't just come because they're saving space in a landfill. With this project, students are also helping the poor.

GreenSneakers basically cleans up and refurbishes old tennis shoes, then sends the shoes to third world countries and orphanages, where the shoes can be purchased for about 25 cents.

"They're making them economically accessible to those who couldn't pay for them," Jones said.

Operating in just eight states including Minnesota, the GreenSneakers program is still pretty new, Jones said. In fact, it's been around for about a year and a half. But in its first year, GreenSneakers collected just short of 100,000 pounds of shoes.

The company sends out invitations to schools around the state to participate. In Farmington, North Trail Elementary and Boeckman Middle School are both conducting tennis shoe drives through Friday, May 13.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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