Being a leader committed to making a difference, and a teen that truly has soul, is what 16-year-old Nick Lowinger of Cranston is all about.
At age 12, he created the non-profit foundation Gotta Have Sole Inc. Since 2010, the group has donated new footwear to over 10,000 children in homeless shelters in 21 states.
Lowinger’s commitment to the cause and getting others involved has made him the 16th Metta Student award winner.
“I started Gotta Have Sole Foundation in 2010 when I was 12 years old because I wanted to provide homeless children with the same opportunities as their peers whose families could afford a roof over their heads,” said Lowinger. “Their stories of missing school because they had to share shoes, or not being able to play sports because they lacked the proper footwear with which to do so, motivated me to do all I could to help them achieve their dreams. I am a peacemaker and believe all children, no matter what their financial situation is, deserve to have equal opportunities afforded to them.”
A Metta Students Foundation ceremony was held May 20 in the Morgan Room 12 at the Wheeler School, located at 216 Hope St. in Providence. The Metta Students Foundation presented a $1,000 check to Lowinger.
Norm Kelly, founder of Software Quality Associates in Providence, created the Metta Students Foundation in October of 2012 after learning of one teen’s kind act toward another teen. Each month, during the school year, the foundation awards $1,000 to a student who shares metta.
“Metta means love and kindness,” said Kelly, “and we are proud to be able to give recognition to all of those bright lights who give back – not because they have to, but because they are truly good hearted and want to make a positive difference.”
“This is such a wonderful and exciting opportunity for Nick. As director of Wheeler’s Community Service Learning Program, I’ve been witness to the varied ways in which Nick and Gotta Have Sole have inspired our community,” said Cali Almy. “As a sophomore, Nick has begun enlisting the support of older students, supervising and training them to further the work of GHS. Students love the opportunity to volunteer with GHS because Nick creates an inspiring, educational and fun environment.”
Nick is also in the process of developing a leadership model so other Wheeler students can become more involved in furthering volunteer initiatives and fundraising for the organization. He is coordinating plans for his legacy to keep Wheeler students engaged in the service and leadership of Gotta Have Sole after he graduates.
“I am being raised in a household where my family always gives of themselves to help those in need,” said Lowinger. “Paying it forward comes naturally to me, and I think it is very important to give back to your community. I am trying to be a role model to show others, especially teens, that they can make a difference in the world. It is gratifying to pay it forward and to know one’s efforts are helping others.
“Being honored with a Metta grant is extremely humbling for me. I do not do this work for the recognition, but instead to improve the lives of those less fortunate. To be in the company of like-minded individuals who feel strongly about committing acts of kindness within their communities means a great deal to me. The Metta grant will enable me to outfit 50 homeless children with new shoes to call their own, helping to transform their lives one step at a time,” he continued.
To see video of how the Metta Students Foundation began or for more information about the foundation, log onto www.mettastudents,org.
There are only a small handful of Wheeler high school students who have established non-profit organizations, and Lowinger created Gotta Have Sole as a middle schooler. Lowinger’s commitment and dedication to the vision and mission of his organization are unmatched.
Wheeler has an independent community service requirement for all juniors and seniors. Each student is expected to complete 42 volunteer hours. As a sophomore, Lowinger has begun enlisting the support of older students, supervising and training them to further the work of Gotta Have Sole. Students love the opportunity to volunteer with the group because Lowinger creates an inspiring, educational and fun environment.