West End: The Shoe Tree
The shoe tree in West End is deeply connected to the stories of students and teachers at the Dozier School for Boys. Local business owner, Leon Kelly, taught at the school before the school closed in 2011. He mentored and counseled countless students about values like personal responsibility and honest work. His preaching to the students earned him the nickname M.L. Kelly (alluding to Martin Luther King Jr.). Outside the school, Kelly owned a shoe-shining shop in West End. It became a rite of passage for Kelly’s students to visit his shop after their release from Dozier. Each pair of shoes on the tree belonged to one of Kelly’s students. The casting of shoes into the branches symbolizes the student rising above his past and rejoining society as a productive citizen. The shoes that fall from the tree face away from it. Even if a student makes mistakes and falls from their path, they can always walk away to find it again.