Students Today, Leaders Tomorrow YouTube
Members of Students Today, Leaders Forever believe their Pay It Forward tour during spring break is best summed up as: “Nine days, six cities, one life-changing experience.”
Since officially becoming a Registered Student Organization at Minnesota State University, Mankato this past year, STLF joins a national association of nearly 23,000 students committed to leadership growth through community involvement.
At Minnesota State Mankato, STLF has rapidly established its organization as it reaches out to potential new members. Thus far, 31 students have registered to join this year’s tour that runs during Spring Break March 7-15.
Stops for their first tour from Minnesota State Mankato include Rapid City, S.D.; Casper, Wyo.; Rock Springs, Wyo.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Grand Junction, Colo., before meeting with other STLF tours in Denver for a leadership gathering.
Among STLF’s founders at Minnesota State Mankato, Bradley Rod and Jessica Farah said the group’s mainstay PIF tour provides real-world experiences through community service seeking to make a difference.
A transfer from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, Bradley participated in his first PIF tour after he was “sucked into it by my roommate.”
Last year, Bradley and fellow Minnesota State University student Abdollah Shaferi joined the tour from the College of St. Scholastica. The experience from a distant campus was bittersweet.
“You make all these friends and then you don’t see them for a year,” Bradley said.
Afterwards, he petitioned the national STLF organization to start a chapter here.
Jessica, who participated in her first of six tours while a student at the U of M, is now a MBA graduate student at Minnesota State Mankato and serves as STLF’s graduate advisor. Like the other five founding members, Jessica remains constantly energized by STLF and the PIF experience.
“I talk about it 24-7,” she said.
Her motivation grew from her first experience with PIF when she participated in her first tour eight weeks after arriving from Lebanon.
“I was the last one on the bus so I sat alone at the very front of the bus,” Jessica recalled.
Just as she was thinking she made an awful mistake that would last for the next several days, another student on the bus sat down next to her.
“She said you want to watch a movie with me?” The two became “buds” by sharing Jessica’s ear buds. More friendships grew during the tour. “I came back and I had 40 new friends.”
During the nine-day tour, students spend a portion of their time assisting community projects in five different cities. Time is also set aside for sightseeing. At night, the group participates in various leadership building activities.
In each of their visits, actions by PIF participants are demonstrating that “these young people are making a difference.”
Jessica remembers a stop during her first tour where their work in a small community involved painting fire hydrants from yellow to red. The local school dismissed classes so students could assist PIF members in the community project. At day’s end, the appreciative community hosted a huge barbecue for the touring group.
Bradley recalls a darker memory from Indianapolis, Ind., where the group was helping a not-for-profit group reclaim what had become a neighborhood flop house. Among the needles and a bed frozen to the flooded basement floor was a collection of children’s toys. The scene imprinted the reality of life and how simple acts can make a difference.
Jessica and Bradley agree that leaving a lasting legacy on campus and across the nation is an important part of starting their STLF chapter at Minnesota State Mankato.
“I definitely have a lot of pride,” said Jessica about her STLF involvement. “To have a lasting impact on campus is huge for me.”
Bradley added he hopes what he helped create will remain part of the campus culture for years to come.
“Maybe my kids will come here,” Bradley added. “It would be great to say, ‘Oh, there’s still an STLF chapter here.”
If the growing number of students committed to Paying It Forward is any indication, the STLF should enjoy a long run at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
The national Students Today, Leaders Forever started in 2003 after four University of Minnesota freshmen sat in their dorm room brainstorming ways they could make a difference in the world. Their grass-roots dreaming has evolved into 582 PIF tours-to-date from campus chapters across the country. Participating students join alternative spring break adventures to various communities to assist with philanthropy events and community projects.