GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina University’s SHOES project will return to campus from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday near the cupola on the ECU mall.

SHOES, which stands for Students Honoring Others’ Everyday Struggles/Stories, is an award-winning program created in 2016 to help ECU students who may be dealing with challenging times. College students may experience depression, anxiety, stress, addictions or thoughts of self-harm, but may feel isolated and unable to manage their responses.

“Mental health touches all ages, races and sexual orientations, so it is a huge problem within the world today,” said Waz Miller, director of residence life. “This program tries to open more people’s eyes to this, as well as to the fact it is continuing to affect people at an even younger age. We are striving to bring awareness that mental health issues are real and impact many in hopes that people realize that what they are feeling and experiencing is real, legitimate, and can hopefully be helped through some of the resources that are available.”

In 2017, the inaugural SHOES event was recognized as the Program of the Year by the National Association of College and University Residence Halls. Organizers shared their experience with staff members from other institutions at the Association of College and University Housing Officers International Conference, training other professionals to create similar events on their own campuses.

Wednesday’s event will feature a display of 400 pairs of shoes collected from ECU and Hope Middle School students, each attached to a story of someone struggling with a family situation, medical condition, mental health issue or other life challenge.

In addition to the shoes on display, there will be a Worthy Wall, a chalkboard where students can write why they are worthy of being loved. “Soks” the giant purple bear will be on hand, and ECU Dining Services will provide hot chocolate and cookies.

Students and staff will distribute thousands of positive messages in campus buildings and ECU Transit buses during the SHOES project. The display of positivity is an effort to lift everyone’s spirits during the month of February and to inspire hope.

“The goal is to reassure people that they are not alone and that there are others feeling this way too, so they don’t feel ostracized or as lonely,” Miller said. “The college years are sometimes when some of these illnesses and issues come to light as students are working to define who they are. We are trying to educate everyone so they can all be supportive of one another and be aware of resources they can use or encourage a struggling person to consider using.”

For more information, contact Aaron Lucier at 252-328-4663 or