Douglass High School students receive special surprise

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COLUMBIA - Douglass High School students received a huge donation Monday morning, one that would allow them to take "one step forward" each day.

At a school-wide assembly, each student got their own pair of brand-new Nike shoes, donated by a group of local organizations and businesses.

Former MU Football coach, Gary Pinkel opened up the assembly with a motivational speech for the students. He encouraged students to wake up each day with a goal in mind.

"Have your dreams. Have goals that you want and then go for it. You wake up, put on your shoes and make one step forward," Pinkel said in his speech.

Former MU Football wide reciever, L'Damian Washington was the keynote speaker for the assembly. He shared his story with students and offered them words of encouragement.

"The best play I've ever made, or the best thing I've ever done was to believe in myself," Washington said.

Eryca Neville, principal of Douglass High School, said the assembly was very necessary for two reasons. 

"One our students see that the community really does care and support them. And the second was to see and hear someone's story that's not old with gray hair, but is not that far removed from their own generation, able to speak to struggle and able to speak to what it means to take a positive attitude regardless of the circumstances and turn what could've been harm for good," said Neville. 

Tim Worstell, Co-founder of ZOUNation Magazine, said he and his partners at ZOUNation wanted to donate something different.

"We thought, the one thing that kids don't typically get, because it's not a necessity, is shoes. You always get clothes and socks and all that, but nobody gives shoes. Especially to high school students," said Worstell. "We thought it would be really cool to get enough sponsors together to basically give every student and faculty at Douglass High School a brand new pair of Nikes."

According to school staff and ZOUNation, the event was a result of multiple sponsors coming together. Academy Sports gathered shoes from its distribution center and other stores to ensure each person received the exact same pair of shoes in their size. Missouri Employers Mutual also stepped in to help with the donations.