Cooperstown student-athletes recently donated dozens of new shoes in time for the holiday season.
Cooperstown Central School students in the Leadership Training for Athletes program collaborated with Cooperstown Central School Soles-to-Share to donate more than 25 pairs of shoes to the Cooperstown Angel Network holiday family collections at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. In addition to student-athlete donations, the shoes were purchased with funds from last year’s winter sports concessions.
The Soles-to-Share program was started in 2012 as a health challenge by Cooperstown alumna Christina Noto. The program partners with Cooperstown Foundation for Excellence and Education to gain nonprofit status.
Originally, Soles-to-Share was created primarily as an environmentally conscious donation program for like-new shoes and cleats. The program made donations to students or community members who were in need of new shoes.
“Every year having to buy sneakers, or even basketball sneakers, or cleats and you buy a brand new pair and then the next year you turn around and your kids already grown out of them,” Cooperstown Physical Education teacher Monica Wolfe said. “It’s just been a nice way to reuse shoes.”
Noto said she was “shocked” and “really excited” to see that CCS was still doing Soles-to-Share and was happy to hear that the organization had the funds to be able to donate new shoes.
“Even though I created it, there were so many people and partners that helped throughout the community, whether it was Cooperstown or Milford. Even other schools, anytime there was a sporting event we would reach out to other schools to let the athletic directors know, so it was a really big community effort,” Noto said.
During her time at CCS, Noto was also a member of the Leadership Training for Athletes program. She said the skills she learned through Soles-to-Share helped build a foundation for future community involvement and partnerships she now uses as a teacher.
“It was a lot of fun. It was still really new. We used to watch videos on one of those roll-in carts about leadership,” Noto said. “The way that the program was designed was to give you leadership pictures that help give you leadership skills and I still think of some of them today.”
The CCS Leadership Training for Athletes program was founded by Wolfe nine years ago after she recognized a need within the athletic community to foster positive relationships between athletes off the playing field. Wolfe said it was her own experience participating in athletic-based conferences that inspired her to bring the program to Cooperstown.
The extracurricular program is made up of students in grades 10-12 who are recommended by their coaches before they go through the program’s interview process.
“It help(s) build leadership skills and improve the quality of sportsmanship and mindset around athletics that is not just on the court and on the field or in the pool but also community-based. So, we really want our students recognizing how much the community supports athletics and to have their involvement as well in order to give back and be those role models,” Wolfe said.
“It’s just great to have the students talking about community service and what they can do to build bridges within their own section and the schools,” she continued.
In a normal, non-pandemic year, students participate in Christmas caroling, help with local parades, and volunteer at the local food pantry. The program hosts a leadership conference for athletes that has grown into an annual Section III event that reaches nearly 600 athletes.
This year, CCS Leadership for Athletes will be teaming up with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, hosting a virtual state-wide leadership conference for 11th graders. Four athletes from each school will be able to attend the event which is scheduled for March 5.
According to Wolfe, students in the CCS Leadership Training for Athletes program work extensively on the project, organizing packets, holding co-conference director positions and assisting as needed.
“They definitely step right into that role and it’s just amazing to see the work that they can do,” she continued.
In addition to Soles-to-Share, the CCS color run was also born from a student in the CCS Leadership for Athletes program, who wanted to raise money for the American Heart Association.
“When a student takes initiative like that, I’m all over it. I’m there to help them in whatever way and get them the resources and help them,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said she has helped other local schools implement similar leadership programs and hopes to be able and continue to grow a network of programs in area schools in the future.
Max Lang. staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7209.