Oakton Outlook

The radiance of Three Steps Charity

Sophomore Emma Wagner shares her passions and 3,500 shoes

Ashleigh Tain, Editorial Board

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After the morning news reads the special announcements, a tangible energy of anticipation overwhelms the buzzing students. A sense of pride instills the atmosphere; a spirit painted by students each holding his own bag or box of worn shoes and a big smile to match. For a week, the homerooms have been collecting and counting the accumulating pairs. Lightly stained basketball sneakers, too small Converses, unwanted sandals among others tally up the classroom’s shoe count. The prize of a Popsicle Party to winning homeroom resonate in the minds of these students. Little do they know, they are helping other children around the world; children of underprivileged childhoods. This is the shoe drive.

I always loved doing charity work because it felt like living in a privileged neighborhood felt more worth it when you’re giving back to the community.”

— Emma Wagner

Sophomore Emma Wagner, for two years, has been running a shoe charity organization alongside her mom. “Three Steps” is a growing charity branch of Art of Humanity; an organization that directs a variety of donations to Central American countries. Wagner and her mom help organize local collections around their neighborhood, elementary school shoe drives, among other efforts in reaching out to other schools in FCPS. Last year, Wagner was interviewed on the early accomplishments of her newfound success. Read more about the charity’s early impacts here.

This year, however, has marked an entirely new journey. After last years count of about 750 pairs of shoes, Three Steps has almost doubled their numbers, hitting 1,750 pairs. Primarily supplied through Waples Mill Elementary School, Wagner has been working closely with young students to collect shoes that they grow out of. Recalling her youth, her early swim team years were what initially inspired her interest in the art of giving, “my swim team used to do a lot of canned food and shoe drives with the Art of Humanity company… I naturally thought, ‘hey a lot of people grow out of shoes quickly, I should donate shoes.’ And, since then, I’ve been doing shoe drives once a year.”

In her consistent success and support from her mom and other family members, the charity has not hit any block or lost focus in its growth. Wagner talks about the sense of fulfillment as a humanitarian as something that continues to inspire her work. Because of Wagner’s awareness of privilege, giving back has always been something close to her heart, “I always loved doing charity work because it felt like living in a privileged neighborhood felt more worth it when you’re giving back to the community.”

Wagner is hoping to continue growing Three Steps into Oakton in the prospective future. Although it has not been successful in the past, Wagner is hoping to work with Oakton’s primary charity club, Cougars Who Care, to catalyze the perception of shoe drives and the work that Three Steps does. In the meantime, Wagner encourages others around her to maintain a sense of community in our education. It is important that in our high school lives, we don’t lose sight of the privilege we are granted and the help that underprivileged students need to have the same learning experience as us. Whether we decide to contribute to other local charities or start ones of our own, it is essential that we help give back in ways that we are passionate about. Wagner hopes to inspire others to take action, “find something you’re passionate in and make it a real priority of yours to keep it going and make sure it’s known in the world or at least known in your community.”

Visit Three Steps on Facebook to learn more.

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