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Youth Action Hudson teens 'pay it forward' on service trip to Midwest cities

The group of 33 was the largest number of students to participate in the "Students Today, Leaders Forever" Youth Action Hudson service trip. (Submitted photo)1 / 7
Seniors Rissy Hines and Brian Lucksinger played with a young boy at The Inner City Mission in Springfield, Ill. (Submitted photo)2 / 7
Deena Whitwam helped sort through donations at the Galesburg Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center, Galesburg, Ill. (Submitted photo) 3 / 7
Sorting donated clothes at the Galesburg Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center are, from left, Annika McPherson, Callie Thielke, Calre Weber, Mady Miller and Jill Wanner. (Submitted photo)4 / 7
Cheering on runners from the Second Wind Lung Walk in St. Louis, Mo. Are, from left, Callie Thielke, Stephanie Seymour, Alicia White Lindsay Tvedt and Clare Weber. (Submitted photo)5 / 7
The trip included volunteering at the Second Wind Lung Walk. Pictured are, front from left, Anna Parenteau and Taylor Hanson; back, Sarah Van Sickle, Brian Lucksinger, Clara Malanaphy, Kayla Erickson, Karlye Peterson, Emma Dunn, STLF leaders Robbie Anderson, Mike Hancock, Claire Zais, Maddie Goodman, Alyssa Iverson, Jill Wanner and Rita Haney. (Submitted photo) 6 / 7
Senior Alicia White helped clean the kitchen at the Waterloo Salvation Army. (Submitted photo) 7 / 7

Recently 33 Hudson High School students had what many of them describe as a life-changing experience as part of the second Youth Action Hudson “Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF) Pay It Forward Tour.”

The STLF mission is to reveal leadership through service, relationships, and action. The organization works with local youth oriented nonprofits like Youth Action Hudson to coordinate service tours where students spend their fall and spring breaks serving communities throughout the country and touring college campuses.

This year, Hudson students spent their October break doing service projects across four cities over five days that culminated with meeting similar groups from this region in St. Louis, Mo.

The first stop for the Hudson students was the Salvation Army in Waterloo, Iowa, where they broke into groups to do a number of different projects including cleaning the kitchen, cleaning toys in the nursery, helping organize and clean the garage, and helping with tasks at the Salvation Army’s thrift shop and their battered women’s shelter.

The students also helped organize and hang coats for the Salvation Army’s coat drive.

While in Waterloo, the students also visited the University of Northern Iowa campus, where students learned “The Interlude” (school dance) and explored the campus all while competing in a scavenger hunt that taught them about the campus and college life.

From there the students traveled to Galesburg, Ill., where students worked at the Safe Harbor Family Crisis Center, organizing a garage filled with donations of clothes, toys, books and furniture for the center’s thrift shop.

Students were given an opportunity to understand the impact of domestic violence and view shirts created by victims, telling their story.

After making a quick pit stop at the Illinois State Capitol to get their picture with Abraham Lincoln, the group ended their day of service at the Inner City Mission (, a homeless shelter that provides shelter, sustenance and education to homeless children, their parents and single women.

The shelter relies completely on individual donations and receives no state funding. The students made bracelets and played games with the children and spoke with teenagers and adults about their experiences.

“It was an incredible way for students to put a face to the issues of homelessness and poverty and a truly humbling experience,” said Alyson Matrejean, Americorps member and YAH youth coordinator.

The trip culminated in St. Louis, Mo., where the Hudson students met up with three other high school tours from Minnesota (St. Paul, Wayzata and Minnetonka). All four buses helped direct and cheer on participants of the Second Wind Lung Walk, which benefits the Second Wind Lung Transplant Association of St. Louis.

All of the STLFers had the chance to meet new people and share their stories from the tour before heading to downtown St. Louis where the group visited the St. Louis Arch and explored the downtown area.

Students from all the STLT tours shared their experience of the “Pay It Forward Tour” on the last night of their trip. Matrejean said the Hudson student leaders returned home inspired, empowered, and motivated to continue to pay it forward in their own community.

Matrejean acknowledged the contribution the students’ parents made to the success of the trip and to the chaperones who accompanied the students on their journey.

The students who participated included Ian Arthur, Mattie Baumann, Amanda Carey, Bridget Donahue, Emma Dunn, Kayla Erickson, Madi Goodman, Rita Haney, Tanner Hanson, Rissy Hines, Jordan Hunt, Alyssa Iverson, Ethan Lo, Brian Lucksinger, Clara Malanaphy, Brianna Manke, Alexa Marlow, Annika McPherson, Madison Miller, Anna Parenteau, Karlye Peterson, Mitchell Rasmussen, Stephanie Seymour, Callie Thielke, Lindsay Tvedt, Sarah Van Sickle, Jill Wanner, Clare Weber, Alicia White, Curtis Whitwam, Deena Whitwam, Quinn Zacharias and Claire Zais.

For more information about Youth Action Hudson and the opportunities for the youth they promote in the community go online at or call (715)386-9803.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604