Students Today Leaders Forever is not just an in your life and out type of organization. It is a community of constant support and encouragement where new ideas stem and grow from. STLF reveals leadership. It allows people to step out of their comfort zones, realize their gifts and create change. It has impacted my life more than I can even fathom and has helped me to realize how I can contribute to the world.
Pay It Forward came into our lives in late December 2007. Our daughter was a freshman in high school at the time. I remember she came home from school very excited telling us about this multi-city community service bus tour her teacher had spoke to her class about. Her excitement was infectious, I told her I would have to check my work schedule and see if I could take off and let her know if I could go.
Imagine my shock when she said I couldn’t go! Yeah, I was that Mom, the one who took off work to chaperone every field trip! Now, I was being told I couldn’t go and to make matters worse none of her friends were going. I looked at my husband and gave him one of my “are we nuts?” looks as we agreed to let her go.
Over the next few days communication was once a day, for a few minutes, she seemed tired but was having a great time. She had a new Pay It forward “family” and she learned how to bus surf and they seemed to be speaking a different language. What I wasn’t prepared for was when I put my little girl on that coach bus, that she would come home to us a strong service conscientious young woman.
As she reminisced and discussed the Tour with us, I was proud and touched on how she had grown and how through this Tour and serving others her self confidence had developed and how grateful she was for the “little things, like a hot shower and a comfy bed”.
Over the next few years my daughter would help recruit, market and advocate Pay It Forward tours at her school. She would speak about making hammocks for monkeys and how appreciative the zookeepers were. The impact of the smiles on the senior citizens faces showing how grateful they were for their company. And when all of the trees (600) were planted, they knew they were not only helping the environment but saving a very small staff time and effort.
Fast forward, it is now 2011, my daughter is a senior in high school and I am very proud to say she has participated in a Tour each year of school and was a bus leader on one of the Tours. We recently hosted a “bus” sleepover which represented 4 different schools and 20 Pay It Forward “family” members were able to attend.
My daughter was a Cheerleader for all four years of high school and Varsity Captain for three years. She is not your typical cheerleader and the fact that Pay It Forward takes the time to teach kids about abolishing stereotypes is very uplifting. Your life lessons through group activities are so rewarding and appreciated. As a parent, I have witnessed the growth and self-confidence these Tours have helped build and the friendships that may never have happened.
Recently and through tears, I had the pleasure of witnessing this exchange with a member of my daughter’s cheer squad joined the Tour this year, she said, “For two years I kind of made fun of you, I didn’t understand why you were so passionate about Pay It Forward, now I get it and I am so sorry, it has changed my life forever, thank you!” With that exchange they both hugged.
My daughter turned and looked at me just smiled! I am so very proud, yeah I am that Mom!!
Students Today Leaders Forever has positively impacted my life more than anything else. From STLF i have learned so much about myself, other people, and the community through the relationships made, the service I have done, and the reflection activities. STLF has changed my life in so many different ways; all for the better! I am so lucky to have had this experience. There are so many great things that I want to say about STLF, but no words are great enough to express my feelings toward this Organization. STLF is one of those organization that in order to fully understand it you have to experience it for yourself. STLF has taught me how amazing youth is, there attitudes toward service, there strive to be thoughtful, and compassion for others. The relationships that I have made through STLF are unlike any others; the trust built in just a few days is extraordinary! Everyone can change the world, but not everyone knows they can--this is what STLF teaches! STLF is the most impacting and empowering organization that I have ever known.
Students Today Leaders Forever and the Pay It Forward Tour was possibly the most life-changing experience that I have ever had. I have been on several, and since led Pay It Forward tours, and even though I have been disconnected from the organization for quite some time, I will NEVER forget the impact that it had on my life. I was fortunate to have had my first Pay It Foward Tour as a freshman in college, and it resulted in a new sense of self-confidence, and community on the large University of Minnesota campus. The service that I did on my PIF tours has resulted in new perspective on the world, and new meaning to service, and the importance of service. The friends that I made in STLF will be life-long. I cannot express how much this organization has done for my life.