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Third Place Winner

Matthew Gilman

tree covered with shoes

By Matthew Gilman, 2011 graduate of St. David’s School: Raleigh, NC. Photo of University of Minnesota.

Not a typical sight on a college campus, the shoe tree is a well-known and rather unique symbol at the University of Minnesota.

Graduating seniors who choose to participate in this tradition go out to this tree by the Washington Street Bridge at the end of their spring semester and throw a pair of shoes into its branches. It is both a nostalgic and symbolic representation of the paths these students have trod in their college years. The different types of shoes on this tree represent the diverse college campus atmosphere, with students from all different backgrounds. Yet these students walked the same paths with their peers for four years to prepare them for their life to come. Now, they cast off worn, memory-filled shoes at the end of this journey through the pinnacle of their education, eager to see where their new shoes will take them. For the college years are just the start of a journey that sets students on a path towards their destiny in the world, transformed as an individual and equipped to make a difference, which is the ultimate goal of any college.