TRIO Students build community through service

Thirty-nine TRIO students and Student Support Services staff from Metropolitan State University spent an afternoon assisting park volunteers in the removal of invasive plant species and those non-native to the region.

After several hours spent under the fleeting Midwestern sun on Aug. 15 at Festge County Park just west of Madison, Wisconsin, the students and staff took a bus to Westminster Presbyterian Church—the spot where they stayed the night. Thus, began their Pay it Forward Tour.

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The Pay it Forward Tour program is a regionally-coordinated set of tours which is set up by the organization Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF), founded in 2003 at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. These tours were the brainchild of four, at the time, students at the University of Minnesota, and to summarize:


The Pay It Forward Tour is a dynamic, multi-day program focused on service, education, and reflection, during which groups of students travel the country and volunteer in a new city each day.”


The morning in Madison consisted of a visit to a graduate school program and a tour of the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus. Following the tour the participants explored the city before boarding a bus to the Feed My Starving Children site in Schaumburg, Illinois. During this visit the program participants helped to pack 14,040 meals in roughly an hour. After packing the food to make its way across the globe, the volunteers stayed the night at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Elgin, Illinois. The evening leadership activities were a crucial part of the nightly program curriculum.

On Wednesday morning, the tour continued to St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in the Roger’s Park neighborhood of Chicago. Half of the participants helped prepare food for the soup kitchen’s weekly community lunch, while the other participants toured the area and did a neighborhood cleanup. On the final evening the students traveled the streets of Chicago.

TRIO participated in the Pay it Forward Tour to encourage leadership through service, build better communities, create an engaged community of learners, and to build a better sense of self.