Sole Sessions is a program piloted last year by Mr. Romero Ross through the School & Classroom Investment Grant at Promise Academy and continues to thrive as a unique outlet for KIPPsters to express their creativity by creating custom sneaker designs. As a graduate of Morehouse College and Columbia University, as well as a teacher in New York for more than five years before joining KIPP DC, the idea to start a program like Sole Sessions was one held for a long time. Coming to Promise Academy and seeing the creative approaches teacher’s there were taking to educating students was the catalyst he needed to push the idea forward.
“Promise Academy is a place that appreciates people’s individuality. I was really inspired by Mr. Sorto and watching not just how our students are being exposed to different things, but how he was being supported by the school in bringing something unique to our students. Seeing that and knowing I had this idea I thought to myself, ‘Why not?’”
Throughout the program, students use their creativity to custom design sneakers. They start by thinking of interesting things in their life, such as memorable moments, life-changing events, or things they care about deeply. From there, they work to design and paint a shoe using symbols and color schemes that showcase the event.
“I support the students in developing the story or interest they want to showcase, but from there, they design and can be as creative as they want to be,” he said. “I’ve been blown away by not only how good some of their shoes look, but just how much of themselves they poured into their designs with their creativity, skill, and dedication.”
Narreah is a third-grader at Promise Academy and was a part of the inaugural cohort of Sole Sessions students. With her shoe consisting of shiny purple colorways and popsicle designs, she says the ability to be as creative as she wanted to be was the highlight of the program.
“My favorite part of the class was making the designs. You don’t have to worry about anyone else’s opinion. You are able to make different colors and shapes and do what you want to do.”
At the end of the program, students had the choice of keeping the shoes they designed or giving them away, with many choosing to donate their custom creations. Phase two of the program will see KIPPsters at Promise Academy collaborate with students in Johannesburg, Africa. The international students will send over their own unique concepts and designs, which the Promise students will then bring to life. Later on, Mr. Ross will deliver the shoes to the students in Africa in person.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the program go on and letting the reigns go as their creativity takes over, and it continues to show me a lot,” said Mr. Ross. “It shows me that our students are smarter, more creative, and capable of so much more than we sometimes give them credit for. What the students have been able to produce and the excitement they come in with every day has been inspiring for me.”