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Heart and sole: Dallas teacher starts nonprofit, gives more than 1,000 pairs of shoes to kids in need

Jesse Acosta started Pasos for Oak Cliff after noticing students being bullied for having bad shoes

DALLAS — Fifth grader Sofia Sastre isn’t in high school, but if she was, she’d already have a favorite teacher.

“He cares about other people he doesn’t even know, so I think that’s really nice of him,” Sastre said.

She’s talking about Jesse Acosta, who teaches history and geography at Kimball High School in Oak Cliff.

A lot of students love Acosta, almost as much as Acosta loves shoes.

“I always look at their shoes before I look at them,” Acosta said. “That’s how obsessed I am with shoes.”

As a self-proclaimed sneakerhead, Acosta is always looking for shoes that stand out, but there was one student, in particular, with a pair of shoes he couldn’t help but notice.

“The whole sole was coming out,” Acosta said.

That student wasn’t alone.

Acosta, who graduated from Kimball in 2013, noticed a lot of students were ridiculed and bullied because of their shoes.

That bothered him because he knew, all too well, what it was like to walk in those shoes.

“I used to get bullied for the shoes that I’d wear because my parents couldn’t afford to buy me the best,” Acosta said.

To make sure no student ever went through that, he started a fundraiser and raised enough money to give away 150 pairs of shoes.

He loved it so much he couldn’t stop.

Last year, he created a nonprofit with his co-founder and girlfriend, Alejandra Zendejas.

They called it Pasos for Oak Cliff. Pasos means steps in Spanish.

So far, they’ve given out more than 1,000 pairs of shoes to kids like Sastre.

“It’s more of a blessing for us,” Acosta said.

Acosta says he’s seen an improvement in confidence, grades and self-esteem in the kids who have gotten new shoes.

Like any teacher, going so far for students is not part of the job description, but it is incredibly rewarding.

“If I’m being honest I love that more, doing what I do with Pasos, than my actual real job,” Acosta laughed. “I love that I get to help these kids beyond the classroom. It’s just a good feeling.”

Oftentimes, to make a difference in the lives of others you have to pour into their heart and soles.

For more information on Pasos for Oak Cliff, visit https://www.pasosforoc.org/home