From the left, Students Today Leaders Forever volunteers Daniel Kue and Daniel Mendoza help to prepare a meal in the Salvation Army kitchen.
STLF leader Tom Schwandt and student volunteer Jose Gomez weed the flower bed in front of the Salvation Army.
PHOTOS BY SHILOH APPEL/PLAINSMAN
HURON — A large group of 38 high school freshmen students and five adult leaders with the volunteer organization — Students Today, Leaders Forever — donated their time and effort Friday to community work in Huron as part of their “Pay It Forward” tour.
It was the first time that all but about three of the students had been to South Dakota, according to coordinator Julie Wilson.
“They are all from Minnesota,” said Wilson. “So they are pretty close [to South Dakota] and you would think that most of them have been to South Dakota. But we asked them to raise their hands if they had been and only three raised their hands. This helps them to see what is out there.”
However, serving the community of Huron was a new experience for even the leaders.
“This is the first time most all of us have been to Huron,” said Wilson. “Only Kevin has been to Huron once.”
The group was welcomed to Huron Thursday night and they spent the night at Hope Lutheran Church.
“We brought our sleeping bags and last night we slept on the pews,” said Julie on Friday morning. “We usually just sleep on the floor wherever we go.”
After rising early Friday morning, they volunteered their time at Huron’s Salvation Army. They broke up into groups of about five each and made sack lunches for people, weeded and cleaned up the Salvation Army’s property, cleaned the building inside, sorted supplies and helped with many other projects.
Meanwhile, Julie shared a little bit about their Pay It Forward tour.
“On this tour we started at the Twin Cities and worked at a food pantry in Sioux Falls. We are going to Eagle Butte tonight to work with a youth group and younger people. Then tomorrow we are going to Rapid City and helping out at the YMCA,” said Julie Friday morning. According to the STLF website, the Pay It Forward Tour is a “community service road trip” that travels from city to city doing different service projects. Students on a charter bus visit cities of various sizes and learn about a variety of social issues, “with the hopes of learning more about themselves, their own community, and the world.” Most tours will take the students to cities in more than four different states, but this tour happened to be completely in South Dakota.
Wilson said that she enjoys seeing the change in students’ attitudes and character during the trip.
“A lot of the students don’t choose to come.
Their parents either make them or their schools make them as a punishment because it’s community service. So usually a lot of them don’t want to be here, so they don’t give their best the first day,” said Wilson. “So I love that transformation in some students that we have. They don’t want to give one hundred percent the first day, and then they see what they do is making a difference. I like to see them become motivated.”
Some of Julie’s favorite memories in the past four tours she has been involved with has included bonding moments with the students.
“Last summer I was with four students and myself and we were doing this very mundane job. We were just really tired and our backs were hurting. We just started singing Disney songs. From that moment on we started bonding. We kind of started out not wanting to do it, and then by the end we were singing and getting it done and being fast about it. I still keep in contact with those kids even though they are from Minnesota and I’m from Michigan,” said Julie.
Wilson said that STLF’s ultimate goal is to reveal leadership in students and get them involved as leaders serving the community. She hopes that they will also inspire others.
“We want to show that students do care and want to help. I think our ultimate goal is to send our message out that we do care. I never met any of these people before, but we are still trying to help their community because we do care,” said Julie.
To learn more about STLF, visit www.stlf.net.
For the complete article see the 10-22-2013 issue.
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