Cuba students get free shoes at special giveaway in Albuquerque

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CUBA, N.M. — More than 100 students from Cuba made the nearly two-hour drive to Albuquerque to pick up some free, new kicks Thursday.

For students like eighth grader Autumn McCaulay, the trip to the Shoe Dept. in northeast Albuquerque was more than just getting a new pair of sneakers.

“It’s really hard because there are no retail stores out there. We have like a couple of dollar stores and that’s about it,” Autumn said, “so getting shoes to kids out there is really hard and a lot of them can’t drive all the way up here.”

Cuba school officials say about 20% of students are homeless. Many families, the majority of them Navajo, face extreme hardship. Running water and electricity are often luxuries that many families can’t afford.

Many of those students were fitted for shoes Thursday. Then, they picked out any shoes they wanted, up to $60, at no charge.

Students can thank United Healthcare. They provided a $10,000 grant to Cuba Schools for nearly 150 students to get a fresh pair of shoes.

“It’s very exciting to see them and we’re glad to be able to offer and see the resources that we have to go back into these communities,” said Linda Atencio, the associate director of marketing.

United Healthcare partnered with Cuba Cares to make this possible. The group helps students get basic needs, relying largely on donated items.

“I thought it was really sweet that they were bringing stuff to people who, like, live out on the reservation and who can’t drive in to get necessities,” Autumn said.