Fred Willer, LMSW
Highland Park High School
In the past 16 years I have worked at Highland Park High School as a social worker, striving to make inroads to create or identify the resources that are so important to removing barriers to student academic achievement. It has been my experience that resource needs, whether they be food insecurity, hygiene products, bus passes, and, in this case, shoes, are more often than not the core issue preventing the students from being successful. One of the biggest resource gaps we have faced in recent years has been the lack of shoes for students. Teenagers are very shoe-conscious, and many of our students come to school wearing shoes that are worn out, or simply do not function as shoes, or are not appropriate for cold weather. When Jerry approached me with this idea last year, I was overjoyed. Right now, I consider this a complex problem, solved. I know that myself and my colleagues can simply send an email to Jerry, and he will deliver a pair of shoes to the school that are just right for the student. I particularly love how Jerry has done this on a grass roots level, he is doing this work himself, not as a big agency, and that allows him to put his resources directly toward the need. I can’t stress enough how crucial this resource is to Highland Park High School and the community.