By Megan Hopps
SUN PRESS Newspapers
More than 200 Champlin Park students involved in Leadership Experience and Opportunity (LEO) club and other school groups plan and participate in volunteer service projects community wide.
These students have a passion for making a difference in the lives of children, the elderly, the sick and the poor.
“The high schoolers are very passionate about helping people,” said LEO club’s Advisor Jane Hansen. “One of the challenges about giving as a student is finding ways to do it other than financially.”
Hansen explains that though many students have a desire to make a difference in the community, at this point in their lives they’re not making a lot of money to contribute to various causes. So right now, the students main focus is to brainstorm ways they can give their time. LEO club members participate in a variety of service projects throughout the year.
The students rake leaves for the elderly, volunteer at Feed My Starving Children, work with Women of Today, go bell ringing for the Salvation Army and assist in other community wide events at local schools and parks. Furthermore, the students have a passion for helping and mentoring kids. Some mentor students at Jackson Middle School, assist local elementary schools with holiday events, participate in Toys for Tots collection and distribution and read to elementary students for ‘‘I Love to Read’ month.
The LEO club also works to raise money to make blankets for the Alexandra House by selling concessions at sporting events and bags groceries at Cub to pay for groceries for the meals they serve at the Ronald McDonald House.
Beyond volunteering in Champlin, Dayton and Brooklyn Park, students even volunteer in surrounding communities like Brooklyn Center, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Blaine.
“My passion is working for the schools,” said Emily Leseman, a member of Champlin Park’s LEO club. “After school gets out on Tuesdays I go to Dayton Elementary and help out one of the teachers there. We make crafts and sell them for a fund raiser.”
Some students even volunteer to make difference in the lives of animals through assisting at TLC’s canine rescue pet adoption. Just how do these kids cling to their passion for helping others? By attending We Day, an annual event inspiring local and global change.
Students involved in various school groups such as Business Professionals of America (BPA), International Baccalaureate (IB), Student Council, National Honor Society (NHS), Distributed Educational Clubs of America (DECA) and the LEO club were chosen to attend the event.
“In October we sent some LEO club representatives to the first annual We Day celebration,” said Hansen. “The students enjoyed the concert and motivational speakers. Upon return from We Day, we were asked to complete one local and one global service project. At CPHS we decided that each group would do their own local project in order to serve more people.”
We Day is tied to the yearlong We Act program, which offers curricular resources, campaigns and materials to help turn the day’s inspiration into sustained activation.
According to their website WeDay.com, “We Day is part of a family of organizations, including Free The Children and Me to We, that has a shared goal: to empower a generation to shift the world from thinking about ‘me’ to ‘we’—through the way we act, the way we give, the choices we make on what to buy and what to wear, the media we consume and the experiences with which we choose to engage.”
Throughout the day, students shared ideas thinking of ways to make a difference in the lives of those in their communities whether that be through donating food, hygiene items or clothing or whether that means volunteering their time.
“The whole message We Day inspired was that youth can make a difference,” Hansen said. “I encouraged the students to start small and look within the doors of their school to get ideas of ways they could help.”
One idea that the kids had was to help the SHELF which helps fill the needs of underprivileged students. After the We Day event, the students got to work discussing how they want to raise money. They talked about everything from water and food shortages world wide to raising funds to purchase fabric for blankets, mittens, hats and scarves to donate. The students were asked to coordinate one local and one global service project.
Recently, Champlin Park’s LEO club students sold Valentine grams for their project. The students helped raise over $150 for the school’s food shelf.
The following week, for their global project, students from several school groups coordinated a silent auction and raffle at the Champlin Park vs. Park Center boys basketball game to raise money for Free the Children’s cause, Adopt a Village. The students raised nearly $400 for Adopt a Village which helps men, women and children living in poverty stricken countries escape exploitation, disease, hunger and thirst.
Sounds like a lot of work. But according to students involved in LEO club, it’s quite rewarding.
“Volunteering makes me feel so accomplished,” said Leseman. “It’s a win-win for me because I get to hang out with my friends and together, we do something we can be proud of.”
And these kids aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Champlin Park students are already looking forward to renovating houses through Habitat for Humanity and plan to assist at the Arts and Academic Expo at Oxbow Creek.
“I just love volunteering for kids,” Leseman said. “They just have the funniest stories and the cutest smiles.”
All the more reason to appreciate the hard work and time these students put into enriching the lives of those in the community.
Contact Megan Hopps at [email protected]