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East Ridge students to participate in third service tour

While many District 833 students will be catching up on sleep and enjoying a day off from school on Feb. 18, a group of 38 East Ridge High School students will be reminiscing about the previous three days of service projects.

The group of students will be leaving next week for the third-annual "Pay it Forward Tour" through the Students Today Leaders Forever organization.

The tour runs from Feb. 14-18.

The "Pay it Forward Tour," started by a group of University of Minnesota students, will see students travel to four cities. There, they will carry out a service project in each of those communities visited, work with a variety of organizations and visit one or two college campuses.

"The mission of the organization is to reveal leadership through service, relationships and action," said Sarah Lanners, East Ridge English teacher and trip adviser, "and that's really what this does."

The tour is named in honor of the 2000 film with Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt about a boy who makes it his mission to do good deed for others.

Last year's group had 25 students.

"The program is really growing, which is really cool," Lanners said.

The tour will leave Thursday after school, on bus, before embarking to its first stop in Ames, Iowa.

Students will also travel to Fort Madison, Iowa, Alton, Ill., and ultimately end in St. Louis, Mo.

In St. Louis, students will meet up with other tour groups to discuss their tours and reminisce during a celebration.

Lanners said it's unknown what service projects the group will be doing, but past projects have included volunteering at animal shelters, retirement homes, schools as well as community cleanup, gardening and building projects.

"We do whatever work they want us to do," she said.

Students' perspectives

East Ridge senior Wynn Stoxen, who participated in the trip last year and is going again this year, said he enjoys being able to get out and help others.

"The best part was getting out of Minnesota and helping more people around the country," he said. "We get to make a difference and do some traveling while we're at."

East Ridge junior Lindsay Tarango, who is also going on her second trip, agrees with Stoxen that the service projects are the best part of the trip.

"The tour gets you out there to give back to the community," she said, "and not only your own community, but others around because we all have to work together as a unit."

Tarango said she enjoys the surprise of finding out what projects they will be doing when they get there.

She said she doesn't have one location she is most looking forward to this year.

"It's not about where you go, but more what you do and who you're with," she said.

East Ridge junior Jack Caron, who will be going on his second tour this year, agrees with Stoxen and Tarango.

"The different service projects made you feel like you were making a difference and helping people out," he said. "Someone will be better off than they were before because of what we did."

Participating in the "Pay it Forward Tour" provides many benefits to students, specifically opening their eyes to the world, Lanners said.

"It instills so much of what we're trying to do in schools," she said. "It will prepare students to be competitive leaders in the world and be respectful people."

Stoxen and Caron said it's important for students to get out into the community because it will open their eyes to things outside of Woodbury.

"I think doing the service opens them up to the real world," Stoxen said. "It really shows the world outside of high school."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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