Homelessness Awareness Week inspires student to give away shoes

Friendship is often strong enough that many would give the shirts off their backs, but for two…

Georgia (Nov 11, 2014)New friends Sam Robinson (left) and Broderick Armbrister (photo by Laila Smith)

Friendship is often strong enough that many would give the shirts off their backs, but for two Kennesaw State students that ideal also applies to the shoes on their feet.

Broderick Armbrister wasn’t sure what to expect when he joined 100 other KSU students involved in THRIVE – a transition and retention leadership initiative for first-year students – in planning the experiential “Walking Home” for Homelessness Awareness Week. The event required participants to walk the Campus Green five times, with each lap offering a different experience, such as being shoeless, blindfolded or carrying ice.

Armbrister made a new friend while he assisted Samuel Robinson, a senior who was blindfolded, as they lapped the Campus Green. After completing the walk, the pair laughed over their newfound friendship before Armbrister asked Robinson what size shoe he wore. On a whim, Armbrister took off his Nike shoes and gave them to Robinson, who had shared with Armbrister about his own homelessness a few years ago.

“His story is an inspiration,” Armbrister said. “My shoes are really comfortable, and I wanted him to have them.” His spontaneous gift was much appreciated by Robinson.

This example of friendship and generosity is just of the many ways that students are getting a sneak peek at the challenges the homeless face daily.

“Homelessness Awareness Week teaches empathy and awareness,” said Marcy Stidum, organizer of the weeklong event and director of the CARE Center, which serves the university’s homeless students. “The week encourages our students, faculty and staff to stop and consider another person’s struggles and how we can give them a hand up to achieve their personal goals and dreams. It also forces us to challenge our assumptions and stereotypes of who can be homeless in 2014.”

Courtney Bradford, a sophomore from Loganville, joined her friend for the walk, explaining that she couldn’t imagine being that cold all the time after walking a lap with ice in her hands.  Bradford was homeless for 10 months when her family foreclosed on their home during the economic downturn when she was in high school.

Students participating in the "Walking Home" event during Homelessness Awareness Week

The Walking Home event was the first event in a series of weeklong activities to bring more awareness to the issue of homelessness.

Events throughout the week included a donation challenge sponsored by Volunteer KSU, which collected more than 1,700 items for 225 care packages for the Salvation Army; the annual Sleep Out of students on campus; and a candlelight vigil to honor those who have died in Cobb County from homelessness this year.

Robinson, a senior English and history major, is a first-generation college student who is trying to break away from the poverty in his family. He spent more than a year homeless and doesn’t want to let that happen again, but was speechless about the gift of his new friend’s shoes.

“One day, I am going to make it, and when I do, it’s going to be big,” said Robinson, who donates part of his current paycheck to charity. “But I’ll always give back.”

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- Tiffany Capuano 
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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