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Fighting for a future in design

Two Ten Footwear Foundation scholar fulfills his dream

Every Two Ten scholar has a unique background. Yet all are bound by their connection to the footwear industry. Whether a part-time retail job to support their way through school, or a passion to bring unique designs to the future of shoes, these individuals, supported by the footwear industry, are working to better themselves through education.

The challenge to get a degree is not just academic. Drop out rates are increasing as tuition becomes more expensive and financial aid shrinks. That is where Two Ten steps in. Since 1969, Two Ten has awarded nearly $20 million in scholarships to 6,353 footwear families who are in financial need; 40% of those scholars are the first-in-family to attend college.

For Two Ten scholar Den Ly, a Two Ten scholarship has been life changing. “I knew my passion, but not how to pay for it. Without Two Ten I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my dream.”

Den’s journey into footwear is an inspiring story. He has fought to survive his entire life. He was born outside of Thailand in a refugee camp during the Cambodian genocides after his mother escaped through the jungles to save them. An American family of doctors found them clinging to life and offered them safety and refuge in Florida.

Although life away from the refugee camp was better by any measure of the word, Den struggled to fit in as a child. Ostracized and bullied in the American school system, he looked to escape his past and his daily troubles and found solace in martial arts. “I found something I was good at, and I was determined to use it,” said Den. He had a natural talent and was eventually recruited by an international MMA promotion company to travel and fight for money.

Within a year he was traveling internationally as his professional career advanced. Against all likelihood, he returned to Cambodia as a fighter. Den had left Cambodia fighting for his life, and returned fighting for a living. During his rigorous tour he suffered a sidelining injury, taking away his outlet and his career. “It was then in my moment of loss that I met a local cobbler, who showed me the craft of footwear repair and design.” Under her guidance, Den created his first pair of shoes and his love of footwear design was born. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Realizing the need for further education, he applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where he could receive a Liberal Arts degree while honing his design skills, and was accepted based on his original shoe design. A Two Ten scholarship made it possible for him to attend.

Throughout his career at FIT he has proven himself to be resilient and ambitious, winning several awards for his original designs. He excelled to the top of his class, and his final portfolio has caused intrigue in the footwear industry, yet his humility remains. “Getting into one of the most prestigious fashion schools in the world has given me the confidence to pursue my dreams, and Two Ten has given me the support to catch them.”

Den’s journey is remarkable, and Two Ten is proud to be a chapter in his footwear career, and his life. Like every single one of our scholars, we are proud to support them, and look forward to watching their careers flourish. Den reminds Two Ten what is truly important; and that is shoepeople helping shoepeople.


Click here to apply for a Two Ten Scholarship.  Applications due April 1.

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