Start something that matters

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I wanted to start something that mattered. Don’t we all? I wanted to start something that would encourage students to see how their needs can positively impact the lives of others, especially those in need. So, I looked to a group that had already done that: TOMS—a company that, for every pair of shoes they sell, gives a pair to a child in need. They’ve dubbed it the One for One movement. And it works. As of October 2011, TOMS had donated more than two million pairs of shoes to children in need around the world.

But don’t be fooled. The One for One movement isn’t just about shoes. It’s a way of life. Messages of conscious consumerism and helping children in need have spread to colleges and universities across the country through TOMS Campus Clubs—and Denison’s is just getting started. Last semester, I co-founded it with Chelsea Glassmann ’12. (Chelsea and I met two years ago while we were studying abroad in Bath, England. I was wearing my TOMS at the time; Chelsea had a pair, too.)

Recently, our club hosted a Start Something That Matters event in Higley Auditorium. There, we screened a short video by TOMS Founder and Chief Shoe Giver Blake Mycoskie and raffled off a signed copy of his first book, Start Something That Matters. Both the video and the book focus on companies like method, FEED, charity: water, and Zappos, which have used innovative models to create businesses that give back. Mycoskie’s message is this: Love your work, work for what you love, and change the world—all at the same time. A big message for those of us who are about to graduate.

In planning the event, Chelsea and I realized that it’s great to learn from entrepreneurs like the people who started those companies, but we also wanted to hear from the people around us who are making change every day. So, we reached out to Thekla “Teckie” Reese Shackelford ’56 and asked her to speak with our group about her work. In 1988, Shackelford co-founded I Know I Can, an organization that seeks “to inspire, enable, and support Columbus City Schools students in pursuing and completing a college education.”

That night in Higley, Shackelford said she found no fear in jumping on board with I Know I Can because she loved children—those with money and those without—and knew how inner-city children could be handicapped when it comes to higher education. Just like TOMS and method and FEED, I Know I Can matters—not only to the community but to the 3,000 I Know I Can students that have graduated from colleges across the country.

The day after the event, I spent the evening at River Road with one of my friends. She’d come to the event the night before and was struck by Shackelford’s story. My friend, who is an education major, commented on how often we take things, like an education, for granted. In her mind, I Know I Can started something that mattered by allowing children to own their education and thus their future.

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