Middle School Students at St. Viator Parish School in Las Vegas collected more than 3,000 pairs of shoes last month, but that’s just part of the story.

Students man the collection boxes.

Driven by their commitment to social justice — through their involvement in Campus Ministry — these students partnered with the Florida-based Funds2Orgs, which to date, has been able to rescue 32 million pairs of shoes from landfills.

Instead, the shoes are shipped to developing countries to create job opportunities for more than 4,000 micro-entrepreneurs who sell the shoes to support their families.

“It was a labor of love,” says Associate Rosy Hartz, Coordinator of Faith Formation and Youth Ministry. “It reinforces who our students are as Viatorians — called to ’embrace those accounted of little importance,’ and their call to understand Catholic social teachings and how to live this out every day.”

These young faith leaders sort through the donations.

Students themselves led the drive, including Samantha Harris (lead chair) and Nicolis Zambini (co-chair) along with these students involved in Campus Ministry: Nicholas Mattson, Justin Eddy, Michael Harris and Cebastion Sedano.

To start out, students positioned collection boxes outside the St. Viator Parish and school. For each pair they received, students had to sort through donations, tie each pair together and bundle them in 33-gallon clear plastic bags.

According to Funds2Orgs officials, the micro-enterprise industry represents one of the most effective ways to lift many families out of poverty in devastated economies. In addition, most people do not know that 70% of the global population uses repurposed shoes and clothing or more than 5 billion people.

As a result of partnering with Funds2Orgs, St. Viator students will receive funds for the collected shoes, which they have earmarked for the Campus Ministry Program. But that’s not what drove them, Rosy says.

“They knew people were in need,” she says simply.

In the end, students learned about the environmental benefits of the shoe drive, as well as about enabling these micro-entrepreneurs — mostly women — who are able to help their family rise above poverty.