By Jaci Tweeten
March 25, 2011— Some 40 University of Wisconsin-River Falls students recently participated in a Pay It Forward Tour program, a dynamic multi-day program focusing on service, education and reflection.
The Pay it Forward Tour is through UWRF’s Student’s Today Leaders Forever (STLF) chapter, a non-profit organization that reveals leadership through service, relationships and actions. A chapter of STLF was established at UWRF in 2010.
The students traveled the country and volunteered in a new city each day. This year the Pay It Forward Tour ended in Denver, Colo. Before arriving in Denver, the students stopped in Fargo, N.D., Miles City, Mont., Rapid City, S.D., Casper, W.Y. and Alliance, Neb.
In Miles City, the group prepared to turn the Miles City Hockey Rink into a rodeo arena, including tearing down bleachers, getting rid of the ice as well as cleaning the space.
See Vang, a sophomore pre-major from Mosinee, is a core leader of UWRF’s chapter.
“The Miles City Youth Hockey Association had donated money towards our service trip and remarked that they were thankful for the service that we provided to them that day because what we had done in two hours would normally take them ten days,” says Vang.
In Rapid City, they volunteered their time at Mt. Rushmore National Park removing infested trees. In Alliance, the students helped at the Alliance Middle School where they gave a presentation about bullying.
Many university students go somewhere warm for their spring break, but these members took it upon themselves to give back.
Lee Thao, a freshman English major from St. Paul, Minn., says, “This trip has changed me a lot. Before I did not open up to anyone, but with this experience I have now opened up and have met many people.”
The STLF chapter at UW-River Falls hopes to expand in size in the future and have more participants in the service trips.
“The experience has changed my life. From being a participant in the organization a year ago, to now becoming a chapter core leader, it has really helped my leadership abilities. I would recommend this experience to anyone,” says Jessica Ryan, a sophomore biology major from Whitehall.
For more information on STLF, contact Vang at firstname.lastname@example.org or Gina Sevick, adviser, at email@example.com or call 715-425-3531.
Photo: Students Vang and Pang Thao, a sophomore art major from St. Paul, Minn., volunteer to clean up the environment in Denver, Colo.