Sophomore Ellen Barker bought her first pair of TOMS Shoes when she was in high school because she valued the company’s “One for One” motto: for every pair of shoes it sells, the company donates a pair to a child in need.
Now, as a college student, TOMS Shoes is giving her an opportunity to do more than make an impact through her purchase. TOMS hand-selected Barker as one of four college students in the entire country to embark on a “giving trip” with the company – an honor that will send Barker to Nicaragua in June to personally present shoes to children who don’t have them.
“This is an opportunity I am incredibly grateful for,” says Barker, an accounting major. “When I first learned about the company, I thought, ‘Wow. What a wonderful philosophy for a business to have.’ I really appreciated that a business incorporated a philanthropy approach, and it made me want to be involved.”
When she came to High Point University, she found a thriving TOMS campus chapter that had landed a spot on the “Top 10 Toms Events of the Year” for its awareness week. She immediately signed up to become a member and be involved at HPU.
“What’s cool about our HPU chapter is that we’re part of a global movement,” says Barker, who is now the president of the club. “There are thousands of people involved in this, yet the TOMS headquarters really noticed the HPU chapter and how hard we’ve worked to give back.”
Each year, the group hosts several events to spread the TOMS message of giving to their peers. This includes One Day Without Shoes, where hundreds of students pledge to go barefoot to raise awareness about the millions of children in developing countries that have to grow up barefoot. After the events caught the attention of TOMS, they contacted Barker for a Skype interview.
“I thought they we were just going to be chatting about the HPU chapter and all we’ve accomplished, but when I logged on to Skype, there were several employees of TOMS campus programs gathered around the web cam,” says Barker. “They started talking about how much they enjoyed reading my blog posts and seeing pictures of our events and of Prowler, who was one of the first university mascots to ever wear the TOMS T-shirt. Then they told me the amazing news. I immediately called my parents to tell them, but I was so happy that I was completely incoherent!”
Her anticipation grows each day. She channeled the energy into this year’s One Day Without Shoes that was held on April 16 at the Slane outdoor basketball courts. Dozens of students showed up barefoot, and the celebration included feet painting, Zumba, contests and prizes, and a barefoot march through campus led by Prowler. And she propelled HPU to land a spot in the Top 10 list of organizations across the country with the most pledges to go barefoot.
“I have to thank all of the HPU administration who are so supportive of our club,” Barker says. “They’ve made it possible for us to organize our events, borrow equipment and make connections. HPU sets us up for success, and for that I am grateful.”
In addition to the fulfillment that the HPU TOMS campus chapter brings Barker, she also knows this opportunity is important to her studies and future career.
“TOMS is a for-profit, and I really want to be in the business world someday,” she says. “TOMS is the ideal company that I want to work for – one that is unique, progressive and full of youth and innovation. It’s grown so much so quickly. I just love the business culture there, which is different from what people think of regarding accountants. I’m very social, but I like the detail-oriented nature of accounting. Working at TOMS is basically my dream job.”