DES MOINES, Iowa — To understand someone you should walk a mile in their shoes.

“It shows community unity in Des Moines and I want to show and showcase how black men in the community of Des Moines can come together and really give back to their community,” said Kaleb Nichols who is a student at Iowa State University and recent graduate of Hoover High School.

For far too many kids in the Des Moines Public School district they may be embarrassed to even let you see their sneakers. So, Nichols is organizing a sneaker drive.

“It’s more than just the shoe itself but the art of giving back to someone,” said Nichols.

High school All-American and Iowa Hawkeye safety Xavier Nwankpa showed in the Music City Bowl victory what sweet feet can do. His run for a touchdown after an interception helped lead the team to victory over Kentucky on December 31.

“Making that play really helped me give back to the community, where I’m from, and helped put on for where I am from,” said Nwankpa.

The Southeast Polk graduate is making many beam with pride, but this winter he wants to make Des Moines kids stand taller by joining the sneaker drive.

“I grew up a couple blocks away from Hoover High School itself. Just growing up in this community is always something I wanted to give back to,” Nwankpa said.

New shoes can be dropped off at Hoover Monday through Friday January 4 through January 27. A Go-Fund-Me has been set up for monetary donations.

Current Hoover High School student and fellow organizer Joshua Nichols said, “seeing someone get a new pair of shoes is like the best thing of all time. The smile and glow on their face is just like they are so excited because not everybody can afford new shoes.”

The generosity will have a full-circle impact in the community.

“It lets people know you are willing to give up a couple things for somebody else and for someone else to feel great,” said co-organizer Charles Walker, another recent Hoover graduate.

According to the national organization Shoes That Fit, which provides shoes to low-income children, 46% of their partner schools reported increased attendance, 62% saw improved behavior in the classroom and 75% saw an increase in physical activity when kids received new shoes.

“You are showing them off,” Nwankpa said. “It brings a smile to your face and you are excited about it. It just helps you throughout the year. Helps you be successful in the classroom away from the classroom and extracurriculars and all that.”

Shoes that will help four young men create a trail of footprints for future youth to follow.

“Once he gets a pair he feels confident he has fun in them and once he gets to our age he is able to give back and is successful in life. That’s something we are trying to build up,” Nwankpa said.

Anyone in the community can pick up shoes and participate in an open gym at Hoover High School on January 28 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.