Tony Jenkins '21 has always had an interest in art. "I loved to draw when I was younger, and have even considered pursuing architecture as a career," says Jenkins. "I also have an affinity for sneakers, and for some time thought it would be fun to combine these two passions by painting sneakers."
And that is where his idea began. After spending hours learning about the technique on YouTube, Jenkins found himself with a growing interest in using sneakers as a blank canvas. A Christmas gift of leather paint and brushes was a start, but with a busy schedule full of schoolwork and wrestling, Jenkins couldn't find the time to dedicate to a new hobby.
Then the pandemic hit. Like most of us, Jenkins found himself with a lot more time on his hands during the months of quarantine and that was when he designed and painted his first pair of tennis shoes. Even at his young age, Jenkins knew that he could use his God-given talent to impact the lives of others. As he witnessed the social unrest during the spring, he felt a desire to do more.
"Helping to create opportunities for others is something that has always resonated with me," Jenkins says. "Access to education and education resources is one of the best opportunities we can provide."
That's when his attention turned to The Welsh Academy. Seniors at Saint Ignatius are invited to serve as Big Brothers to Welsh Academy students. After meeting some of the students and faculty at The Welsh Academy, Jenkins felt drawn to their mission and wanted to do more with the group. He was selected to serve as a Big Brother to sixth grader Victor Perez. Jenkins spends time during his free periods with Perez mostly during breakfast, lunch or recess. Throughout the year, they are able to build a relationship that impacts both of their lives and shapes their educational experience.
Driven by the Jesuit mission of both Saint Ignatius and The Welsh Academy, Jenkins had the idea to use his gifts to make a difference in the life of Perez and his classmates.
"I feel like I finally have the opportunity to fulfill my role in helping solve the issue of social injustice, by playing a role in the education experiences of young kids who need the opportunity most."
And that is when he had the idea to hold a fundraiser to benefit The Welsh Academy. "I want to use my artistic talents to make an impact on my community."
Jenkins has organized a giving campaign to support the affinity courses at The Welsh Academy where one lucky donor will receive an original design of custom fit Nike Air Force 1s. Just as Jenkins discovered his talents by trying something new, affinity courses are short-term learning experiences that provide a hands-on introduction to new and exciting activities or subjects to help Welsh Academy students discover their talents and see where their interests lie. The fundraiser is planned for Monday, November 23, 2020.
All gifts made will help to offset the annual operating costs of the Welsh Academy. These costs include items such as educational materials and affinity courses for the students, along with professional development for faculty.
At the conclusion of the campaign, one lucky donor that makes a minimum gift of $10, will receive a pair of custom Welsh Academy Nike Air Force 1s hand painted by Jenkins! Follow @SIHSCleveland on Instagram to see a reveal of the shoe design and for more information on how to make your gift.
"I so strongly believe in the mission of the Welsh Academy," says Jenkins, "and what they do for our community, and would love to play a small part in generating resources in support of this mission."
Editor's Note: The fundraiser was held on November 23, 2020 and brought in a total of nearly $40,000 to support the annual operations of The Welsh Academy.