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SHOES project at ECU shares unique stories, struggles

SHOES stands for "students honoring others everyday struggles." No two pairs of shoes are the same and neither are the stories attached to them. (Ashley Boles, NewsChannel 12 photo)

There was a different look on the East Carolina University campus on Thursday.

From flip flops to sneakers, even flats, they were spread out for students to see as they walked through campus Thursday. The point wasn't to just look at different shoes but to read the stories attached.

"They know as soon as they get on campus something is going on, something positive is going on then they walk to the heart of campus and we're all here," said Taylor Meyer, an ECU sophomore.

SHOES stands for "students honoring others everyday struggles." No two pairs of shoes are the same and neither are the stories attached to them.

"Last year I kinda had a hard time seeing something like this because I'm going through some of the same situations written on a lot of these shoes," Meyer said. "But recently, I've been on my own journey of getting help for anxiety and depression."

Besides the shoes, there were smiley-face cookies, pamphlets on campus resources, a giant teddy bear and a worthy wall. It's where Meyer wrote the words "I am still here."

"I'm still here. I'm still standing. I'm still alive and for that alone, like I'm worthy of love and life and happiness," Meyer said. "And sometimes, it's really hard to remember that and see that."

Troy Nance, a senior, wants peers like Meyer to know everyone deals with something and it's why he's involved with the project.

"My first two months here at ECU were a little rough because it was my first time away from home and I didn't know what to do on campus and how to get involved," Nance said. "Then I just started talking to people and then I started to realize everyone's here for me and I just want people to understand that you're not here alone."

Step by step, it's not a national award winning program. Universities on the West Coast are even adopting it, showing all students it's OK to talk about mental health and to think what life would be like in someone else's shoes.

There were also 4,300 sticky notes with positive messages on them. They were on all ECU buses and in classrooms, hopefully giving students a sense of hope and reassurance.

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