Ben Ellis poses with his customized ice cream-themed shoes, which were his prize for winning a design contest at Royal Oak Middle School.

Ben Ellis poses with his customized ice cream-themed shoes, which were his prize for winning a design contest at Royal Oak Middle School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Sixth grader Ben Ellis wins Royal Oak Middle School shoe design contest

By: Taylor Christensen | Royal Oak Review | Published April 22, 2024


ROYAL OAK — A Michigan shoe artist, Jada Henderson, was at Royal Oak Middle School April 18 to present the winner of a shoe design contest with his very own customized shoes.

The contest was open to all current Royal Oak Middle School students. Staff reviewed the student designs and narrowed them down to the top four in each grade level. Students then voted for their favorite design during school.

Sixth grader Ben Ellis won the contest with his ice cream-themed shoe creation.

Each student who submitted a design had to depict only original work and include an artist statement about the design.

For winning the contest, Ellis received a pair of customized shoes from Henderson that featured Ellis’ ice cream design.

The second-place winner, seventh grader Ainsley Steiner, and the third-place winner, seventh grader Charlotte Yakima, also received a prize, which was a starter kit and a T-shirt.

Steiner created a flower-inspired shoe design, and Yakima designed a shoe using a pink pattern.

“Jada from the Block,” as Henderson is known, is an Ann Arbor resident who has been painting customized shoes since 2020, when she decided to combine her love for art with her love for shoes. Since then, what was a hobby has turned into a full-blown business.

“Continually I have been given opportunities,” Henderson said. “God has brought me so many opportunities to help it grow into a full-on business, and now it is my full-time job.”

Henderson now has 98,000 followers on her Instagram account, @jadafromtheblock, and creates customized shoes for customers around the world.

Royal Oak Middle School Principal Kristin Meldrum said in a press release that she has been following the artist for about a year and was interested in connecting with her to speak to the students.

After having Henderson speak to the school in December, the school’s Art and Design teachers came up with the idea of a contest for the ROMS students to create their own pairs of shoes. According to the press release, Henderson was excited to be a part of it.

“She has been helping us every step of the way,” Meldrum said in the press release. “She even offered to come back and deliver the shoes to the winner himself.”

Henderson said that an experience like this has been nothing but exciting, and she was grateful to show the Royal Oak Middle School students that anything is possible.

“Growing up, I kind of felt like, in my mind, I could do anything except for, you know, be an artist,” she said. “That’s one thing I kind of didn’t really think was a possibility, and now I do it full time.”

Henderson said that her goal throughout this process was to show the students that they can do that “impossible thing, or the job that doesn’t sound like a job.”

“You can make the right opportunity,” she said.