On Wednesday October 21st, 41 dedicated Hudson High School students boarded a Minnesota Coach Bus for the 4th annual Youth Action Hudson Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF) Pay It Forward Tour! The students spent their October break doing service projects across four cities in five days, as we made our way to Chicago, IL!
Des Moines, IA
We departed Hudson and made our way to Des Moines, IA, where we spent our first night getting to know each other and the five college leaders. In the morning, YAH students spent their first full day of the tour serving Trinity Lutheran Church. Our students helped repaint the church’s parking stops, clean and organize their sanctuary and meeting rooms, and rake and weed their property. In addition to the church, students also helped to clean up the lawn of a home occupied by a blind couple who attends the church.
Iowa City, IA
We made our way from Des Moines to Iowa City, where students had the opportunity to tour the University of Iowa campus and hear from current students about their experience at the university. Students also got a true taste for college when they had the chance to dine in the campus dining hall. After exploring the beautiful campus, we made our way back to our housing site for the evening. That night the students had an opportunity to ask STLF & YAH leaders questions about college, living on your own, jobs and life in general.
But we weren’t done with our time in Iowa City quite yet! Before departing for Lake in the Hills, IL we served with Backyard Abundance, an Iowa City based non-profit organization that helps create beautiful, environmentally-beneficial landscapes that provide healthy food and habitat. Our students helped winterize a community garden, pulling up and re-potting herbs and vegetable plants, while others helped to create two new garden beds that will be filled with vegetables, flowers and herbs come spring.
We then visited Backyard Abundance’s “Gaia’s Peace Garden”, one of their many landscapes filled with an oasis of edibles, water managing swales and pollinator habitat. Students got to see firsthand what a difference this public garden makes in a community. There were numerous places to sit and enjoy the wildlife and habitat. We were also happy to see a Little Free Library all the way in Illinois!
As the rain began to fall, we quickly loaded back onto the bus and made our way to Lake in the Hills, IL, where we would end our last full day of service at a “Trunk or Treat” Halloween Festival. Students helped facilitate Halloween games and activities including face painting, a photo booth, coloring station and pumpkin decorating.
We departed Lake in the Hills and made our way to Chicago, where we had an opportunity to volunteer with HandsOn Suburban Chicago. HandsOn is a local nonprofit whose mission is to inspire, equip and mobilize people to volunteer and take action. They serve the community through various volunteer events and opportunities. Our students joined more than 80 volunteers taking part in the organization’s celebration of Make A Difference day by helping transform the courtyard of Jane Addams Elementary School. Students helped to create an outdoor learning environment and built, stained and painted benches that would be used throughout the school’s campus.
Students had an opportunity to see how their hard work could pay off in ways they never imagined. Karla Robles, volunteer coordinator for HandsOn, told the students that without their service, it would have taken weeks or months to complete the work that we finished in just a few hours.
On Saturday afternoon we finally reached our celebration city - Chicago, IL! After four days of service and team building, students were treated to an evening in Chicago. Highlights included visiting The Bean, trekking to Navy Pier, enjoying dinner in downtown Chicago and exploring the city!
Then we finally made our way to our HOTEL! Yes, the nights of sleeping on church floors had come to an end as we reached our celebration hotel in Schaumburg, IL. We spent the night playing games, reflecting on our service, and looking forward to returning home and continuing to pay it forward in the Hudson community!
STLF is truly an incredible experience for our Youth Action Hudson students. Not only do they get to know new students and learn from each other, but they have the opportunity to be exposed to new communities with different social issues, community dynamics and cultures. Senior Brittany Germain says “STLF was an eye opening experience. Sometimes we forget that a world exists outside of Hudson and there are so many different types of people with many different views and ideas about life. If an underclassman asked if they should go on the trip next year, I would tell them to sign up without any hesitation.”
Junior Rosa Dunn says, “The STLF trip is certainly a highlight of my year because of the personal and community growth I am able to experience firsthand. I’m very fortunate to be given this opportunity and can’t wait to put the skills I gained of this year’s trip to use!”. It is because of students like Rosa that we continue to participate in PIF tours. It allows Hudson students to demonstrate their dedication to service year after year and it is so inspiring to see youth realize their potential and grow into leaders.
I would like to thank all of the parents of youth who participated for supporting your students in being catalysts for change. Thank you to STLF and our college leaders for making the trip possible. And lastly, thank you to all 41 HHS students: Katie Cardell, Sam Chase, Kenzie Drace, Samantha Drost, Rosa Dunn, Gabriel Franck, Sam Gerard, Brittany Germain, Rielle Hanson, Jackson Hellmers, Casey Holmes, Phoebe Holter, Parker Holum, Sam Johnson, Sammy Johnson, Rachel Kadidlo, Drew Klabon, Kate Knott, Maiya Koch, Shayla Koeckeritz, Annalee Kroll, Ashley Lardy, Zoey Lewis, Brianna Manke, Alexa Marlow, Jacob Midby, Drew Midby, Lauren Milbrandt, Madison Miller, Marina Minic, Kelley Nelson, Abby Olson, Emily Plattner, Sarah Potter, Grace Potter, Jackie Rau, Carly Richardson, Abigail Smith, Mason Ste. Marie, Lindsay Tvedt and Lexia Wookey.
Collectively, the youth on the trip contribute more than 2,500 hours of service to four cities in two states!