From the Magazine

How one class project launched an international business that’s making a difference.

Courage Shoes – Evalyn Eddington

In August 2020, 12-year-old Evalyn Eddington was feeling nervous about going into 7th grade. In a normal year, seventh grade brings on feelings of anxiety: junior high, new school, changes all around.

But this was not a normal year. This was the year of a global pandemic, and Evalyn was feeling the same amped-up nerves that millions of kids were feeling as they entered into the new school year.

Karen Eddington, Evalyn’s mother, recalls, “In the mornings, she would just be in a puddle of like ‘I don’t want to go to school, this is hard, this is scary, this entire school year is new.’” Grappling with a year of uncertainties ahead of her, Evalyn found a creative outlet in a pair of white sneakers. Breaking out an old watercolor set, Evalyn turned the plain white low-tops into a vibrant array of color and emotion. When she put them on, she knew she could brave it. She knew she could muster the courage to push through this year … to thrive in this year of middle school. 

Meanwhile, Joslyn Heiniger from South Cache Middle School in Hyrum, Utah, was also preparing for an uncertain school year, filled with Zoom sessions and social distancing. It’d be vastly different than anything she’d known before, especially since her classes were hands-on experiences. Faced with the challenges of teaching during a pandemic, Heiniger questioned how she would teach her College and Career Awareness class that relies primarily on experiential learning. “Covid shaped what happened in the classroom this year,” Heiniger says. “How are we going to keep [the students] safe? How do we do group work? Is it okay to have them talk?” 

Pulling knowledge from her previous career as an academic advisor at Utah State University, partnered with her 10 years of teaching math at the middle and high school levels, Heiniger embraced the challenges ahead of her. She was eager to introduce her 7th graders to an entrepreneurship program she had implemented in her high school courses the year prior. Despite the challenges of the year, she knew she could bring the deeply experiential learning model to which she’d grown accustomed to life in the Covid-world. The entrepreneurship class would be the ultimate test of her own ability to innovate, but she also knew it had the greatest upside. 

With her shoes painted rainbow, Evalyn began the seventh grade, and soon enough, she was coming home raving to her mother about Heiniger’s class. Eddington says, “In this class, she just listened in and got ideas and she came home and she would talk about her ideas all the time.” Heiniger noted Evalyn’s interest in class, and once the unit on entrepreneurship began, Evalyn was even more eager to learn, this time about starting a business, and soon enough, an idea was born. 

Evalyn started staying after class with Heiniger to discuss ideas she had about selling shoes like the ones she had made for herself. After two weeks of telling her mom about her plans, she and her parents launched her business “Brave and Creative” with a social media post and within an hour, her Courage Shoes had sold out!

“I thought it would take a couple of days for even one person to want the shoes. But we sold out in an hour. I was so surprised,” Evalyn says.

Today, Evalyn’s idea, the one that began in Heiniger’s classroom, has become an international business. Heiniger is proud to point out how her student’s business is so much more than an entrepreneurial endeavor. “The whole concept of her shoes is to give back and to bring joy … to me, that made the whole moment worth it,” she said. “That was the point.” In the challenging school year this has been, she is happy “… that at least something got through.” 

Megan Sullivan teaches fifth grade in New York, and has spent the last 13 years teaching mostly middle school grades in Rhode Island, Indiana, and New York. When she’s not chasing her two kids around or playing cards with her husband, she is pursuing a postgraduate degree in Educational Administration.