Champlin Park students serve community through Leo Club

Four years ago when Jane Hansen wanted to start a service club at Champlin Park High School (CPSH), she chose a Leo (Leadership, Experience and Opportunity) Club sponsored by the Lions Club International. Hansen, the community school coordinator, made a good decision; the CPHS Leo Club has been a huge success with both students and the community.

CPHS Leo Club members Beau Nelson, Kara Nelson, Nicole Olson, and Keri Skelly (left to right) volunteer with Jane Hansen, the CPHS community school coordinator, (second from left) at Feed My Starving Children.

CPHS Leo Club members Beau Nelson, Kara Nelson, Nicole Olson, and Keri Skelly (left to right) volunteer with Jane Hansen, the CPHS community school coordinator, (second from left) at Feed My Starving Children.

The first year the Leo Club met with about 30 students involved. Word spread that this was a great way for students to volunteer their time and gain leadership experience, as well as earn community service hours for classes. Hansen said 150 students attended the first Leo Club meeting of this school year.

“The kids are embracing the Leo Club,” Hansen said. “When the group began it was mostly girls, but that has changed. And my roster is very diverse. If you look around the room there is a good mix of grades, diversity and academic levels. It’s what the hallways look like.”

The Leo Club meets once a month but meetings are not mandatory. The main way students get involved is through sign-up sheets for volunteer activities Hansen posts. Volunteer opportunities include packing food at Feed My Starving Children, ringing bells and distributing toys for the Salvation Army during the holiday season, helping with activities at Springbrook Nature Center, raking lawns for seniors, volunteering with pet adoption events, organizing clothes at Value Village, and reading with elementary students during “I Love to Read” month.

Hansen thinks the Leo Club is popular with students because they understand that providing service to others is important to their future and it’s something they can do with their peers. Volunteering provides a good learning experience for students.

“Volunteering helps students to learn responsibility,” Hansen said. “If they sign up for something, they need to show up. That follow through is important, people are counting on them. And they are learning that giving back to the community is fun. It’s part of who they need to be to be a good citizen.”

For their work, students can earn a school letter and can be recognized with a Presidential Volunteer Service Award. Hansen said 19 CPHS students earned the presidential award last year. The Lions Club also sponsors a Young Leaders Award students can earn.

CPHS Leo Club’s sponsors are the Champlin and Dayton Lions clubs. The students report to the clubs once a year and help the Lion members with a pancake breakfast they sponsor. Hansen said the clubs have made donations to help provide transportation for students. This is important for ninth and tenth grade students who want to be involved but don’t yet drive. The money also helped offset the cost of t-shirts so all members could purchase a Leo Club t-shirt to wear when they volunteer.

 

“The Lions Clubs are very supportive,” Hansen said. “They love what we are doing.

“I work with really good kids. I have to say that’s really nice.”

Glenn Iseri, a member of the Dayton Lions for 23 years, said he likes working with the Leo Club students because of their enthusiasm and energy.

“I believe that the students that sign up for Leo’s are already community conscious and all they need is a club like the Leos to help guide them to help those in need,” Iseri said. “The experience they take from the Leo Club will carry on after they move on with their lives. It has always been a pleasure to work with the young Leos.”

CPHS senior Heather Bates has been the Leo Club president for the past three years. One of the club’s original members, Bates’s sister, Stephanie, was the club’s first president.

A long-time volunteer at St. Gerard’s in Brooklyn Park, Bates joined the Leo Club to add to her volunteer work. Bates has seen the Leo Club grow from a small group of students interested in service hours for classes to a group of students who think volunteering is fun and appreciate there are a variety of activities that fit into their busy schedules. What she likes most about volunteering is the “cause and effect.”

“The cause is benefiting someone and the effect of volunteering goes both ways; you help whoever you are serving and yourself as well,” Bates said. “Volunteering is something that helps the community and is a character building activity.”

Through her involvement with the Leo Club, Bates has enjoyed helping seniors, volunteering at Lions Club events and making tie blankets for Alexandra House (an organization in Blaine that works to end domestic and sexual violence), an activity Bates and her sister began. Last year Bates volunteered at the Salvation Army helping parents select presents for their children.

“It was cool to talk with the parents and get to know them,” Bates said. “They would show you pictures of their kids, it was really sweet. Working with the parents helped me realize that there is a dire need for help, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas..”

Serving as president has helped Bates with her leadership and organizational skills.

“It’s been really cool to work with other students, compare ideas and make service projects happen,” she said. “I hope that volunteering isn’t just something they do during high school. I hope people involved with the Leo Club will continue to volunteer their time during college and throughout the rest of their lives.”

As Bates prepares to graduate and is looking to attend cosmetology school will she continue her service work?

“Yes, I will always be a volunteer,” she said.

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