Athletics Company Brings Boston Student's Sneaker Design to Life

The design's colors and landscape were inspired by Jean Dario's homeland, complete with Haiti's national flower, the hibiscus

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Boston student got a special surprise when he learned his sneaker design won a contest and the shoes, now bearing his name, went on sale this week.

Jean Dario, a teenager who recently immigrated from Haiti, was also surprised Wednesday with news that profits from selling his sneakers will help fund his college education.

The design's colors and landscape were inspired by Dario's homeland, complete with Haiti's national flower, the hibiscus. The shoe is called "The Frank by Jean Dario," after the 16-year-old.

"So amazing. So cool. I love them," Dairo said after learning in the surprise announcement that he won the "Blank Canvas" contest.

Boston student Jean Dario with the shoes he designed.
NBC10 Boston
Boston student Jean Dario with the shoes he designed.
The Frank by Jean Dario
NBC10 Boston
The Frank by Jean Dario

The idea is part of Boston-based York Athletics' and GYK Antler's play to make the creative, marketing and advertising space more diverse. And at Boston International Newcomers Academy, they found a truly diverse audience and opened eyes to a new career path.

Students at the Boston high school, made up of about 500 recent immigrants, were invited to take part in York Athletics' Blank Canvas shoe design competition.

Before the contest, they surveyed the students to see what they knew about creativity careers like marketing and shoe design. They knew almost nothing. After the contest, a new survey found awareness nearly doubled, bringing newfound interest in marketing and advertising-related careers among the high schoolers.

As Elena Delle Donne prepares to head to Tokyo with Team USA, she remembers how her first pair of basketball shoes, Sheryl Swoopes’ signature sneakers, made her feel like a champion. Inspired by her sister with disabilities, Delle Donne explains why she created her own shoes designed for anyone who wants to play.

"If you open the door and show them a viable career path, they will come. We were blown away by the designs and the stories and the self-expression," said Mark Battista, a marketing executive at GYK Antler.

Before painting a landscape of his native Haiti for the competition, Dario had never painted anything, according to York Athletics. Given the opportunity to paint something he knows well, he flourished.

"The original brief was to: 'do you'. This is innate to who Jean Dario is," said Greg Segel, York Athletics' vice president of e-commerce. "He's taking inspiration from his past into his future."

"Art is in my heart now. I would like to do more and learn more about art in the future," Dario said.

Dario's shoes will be available online until December 12 for pre-sale, with deliveries arriving early next year. Profits from the shoe -- and for a limited time, profits from the "Blank Canvas" shoe -- will go toward the teenager's college education.

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