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 Some people may be unaware that they might have a gold mine in their closet or attic. A search of those cobweb- and dust-drenched places might turn up an old pair of sneakers worth $200. All across the country sneaker gatherings have cropped up. Sneaker events are places where vendors trade, buy and sell rare Jordans, limited-edition Nikes and celebrity endorsed pairs. There are even elaborate Sneaker conventions, known as Sneaker Cons, held at different cities around the nation. Now the sneaker phenomenon has arrived in Evanston.

At Evanston Township High School, Sneaker Exchange 2 was hosted by Club Éxito/Success Club on Feb. 21. Club Éxito students ran a fine event at the school’s Bacon Cafeteria, which was obviously very popular. More than 400 people attended to haggle and purchase. Buyers filled the room and crowded around stalls, hands weighed down by multiple shoe boxes.

There was a large diversity of buyers and sellers at this year’s Sneaker Exchange. Middle school students, high school teenagers, college students and adults were all in attendance. Many of the sellers (or vendors) were from professional stores. Many of the younger people had just started their business and were there to gain more experience about what works at a sneaker show. Eugene Lawson and his sons attended the event to sell sneakers for “$200 to $800.” This was their first event. They had heard of Sneaker Cons and thought they could make some easy cash. Eugene mused that what they had on display “…was in my closet, so no loss to me.”

When asked, “How do you get into the business?” vendors’ answers ranged from “Just start buying and selling” to “Get out there and do shows.”

 The shoes were not the only thing on display. The real stars were the Club Éxito students, who did a fantastic job of organizing the event. The students began heavily promoting the event through social media in December. This payoff led to a jump in vendors and buyers. Last year’s Sneaker Exchange brought in 215 attendees, compared to 400 this year.

Berto Ansani, student event manager, was responsible for securing vendors – 30 this year, 10 more than the prior year. Club Éxito raised a total of $1,000 at last year’s event. That amount increased to $2,500 at Sneaker Exchange 2. Club Éxito students earn stipends at the end of the school year based on their fund raising efforts. “This is a team effort,” Berto said. “Organizing a successful event has taught us many business skills.”

Club sponsor Dr. Elena Garcia Ansani, executive director of Latino Resources, designed the curriculum for the Club Éxito program. From her experience as a college instructor she observed that, “Many students were unprepared for the real world and greatly lacked self-confidence, self-esteem, self-awareness and self-determination to be successful. The Club Éxito students are learning so many life skills about what it takes to be successful, today and tomorrow.”

She credits the success of this year’s Exchange to the support the program received from ETHS, Evanston Potbelly’s and Sam’s Club. “Our community partners believe in us because they know we are making a positive difference,” she said.

Matthew Dahlman is a student at Oakton Community College.