Designer recognizes ‘Kids Need Heroes’

More stories from Jillian Schudiske

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Michael Washington

West Aurora junior Evan Hackney poses as a role model with Shawn Ellis (left) and Shane Ellis (right) while wearing an original Michael Washington “Kids Need Heroes” shirt.

Who do you admire?  Often, children grow up and credit their achievements to a particular person- their role model. Yet, children without positive influences often grow up without support and encouragement.

Junior Michael Washington believes that children lack representation when it comes to role models. 

“Growing up young and black, you rarely see people who look like you portrayed in a positive manner,” Washington said.

Washington was inspired to create his own apparel brand based on a project from English teacher Anne Walsh’s English II Honors class. Walsh assigned students to write an eight-minute speech about a scientific or societal issue.

“This is 100% my favorite assignment I give my students,” Walsh said. “I feel like too often students feel as though their voice doesn’t matter or doesn’t have an impact.”

Washington took the assignment as an opportunity to make his aspirations of representing the marginalized a reality. 

“I decided to write about underrepresentation of minorities in the media,” Washington said. “I wanted to do more work with that subject, and clothes were just something I always wanted to do, so I figured that could be one of my outlets from my messages.”

By creating the apparel brand “Kids Need Heroes”, Washington is spreading awareness about the overwhelming lack of beneficial minority influences.

“The premise is giving minority children more positive role models that they can identify in their communities,” Washington said. 

The fear of failing caused him to put off the introduction of his apparel. Yet, when he finally launched the brand, everything else fell into place.

“If I didn’t change my attitude about failure or embarrassment, I would still be stuck wanting to be who I am now,” Washington said.

According to Washington, the first launch was a success by gaining traction with his peers, and he sold about 50 shirts. 

“Our first launch was called ‘Origins’, it was our debut/ origin story,” Washington said. 

While the money Washington has earned from his sales is a bonus, he measures his success by how many people he is able to positively impact with his message.

“I find success within myself and the lessons I’ve learned from this experience,” Washington said. “I think that’s greater than any amount of money I could make.”

 This movement has people supporting him including Washington’s friends and family. 

“Michael’s work ethic truly amazes me,” West Aurora junior Evan Hackney said. “He has so much passion for his designs with the amount of work he puts into this brand.”

Washington also receives support from those at school including his peers and teachers.

“I think ‘Kids Need Heroes’  is inspirational simply because a young man has found a flaw in society, and instead of accepting it, he is taking a stand, using his voice, and getting others to join his cause,” Walsh said. “What could be more inspiring than that?”

Students have supported Washington by purchasing his shirts and helping promote the brand.

“Seeing my classmates and even my teachers wearing the brand is an unbelievable feeling,” Washington said.

He advises kids like him, who wish to make a change in their community to be confident in themselves and take initiative.

“By trying to fit in with everyone else, you’re only limiting yourself to their potential, not yours,” Washington said.

For more information, visit website www.kidsneedheroes.us/ and instagram @kidsneedheroes.