As students from campuses around the country celebrate spring break with trips to warm, sandy beaches, dozens from the University of North Dakota soon will embark on a nine-day trip of a lifetime as members of Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF).
As members of one of the first three STLF chapters in the nation, UND STLF students have been participating in the organization’s “Pay It Forward Tours” since 2005. These like-minded students share one common goal: to make a difference. They gain valuable leadership skills and build relationships with other students from around the country, while assisting communities in need during their spring break.
Spring break at UND runs March 11-15.
This year, UND STLF will become just the second school to have four buses on the tour. Two buses will go to San Antonio, one will visit Washington, D.C., and another is going to Colorado. Students will depart from UND at the beginning of spring break and stop at various cities around the country to perform services on their way to a destination city.
On a typical day, students wake up early to perform at least four hours of service and then get back on the bus to travel to a new destination. Once at their destination, they network with students from around the country.
“Going on a Pay It Forward Tour was one of the best decisions that I ever made,” said UND junior Ryan Andert, who took part in last year’s tour. “It was probably the most life-changing, humbling and empowering experience that I have ever taken part in.”
Students assist communities and organizations by painting, cleaning and working with children, just to name a few. The pride they feel from helping is often as invaluable as the work performed.
“The communities we serve are so appreciative to have us lend a hand, and it’s amazing to see what 40 students can accomplish when working as a team for only a few hours each day,” Andert said.
Sophomore Dylan Berg traveled to Washington, D.C., last year and experienced firsthand how impactful community service can be.
“We saved an organization a week and a half of work by painting and cleaning their offices,” he said.
Students say not only do they better the communities they serve, they also grow and develop into future leaders.
“You definitely feel like you’re making an impact,” said Margaret Burke, UND sophomore and STLF president. “You get to see yourself transform into what leadership type you are and also get to know people on a different level.”
Those who have taken part in past tours believe it can have an impact on anyone who is open to new experiences.
“I promise that anyone who invests their time and energy into a tour will step off the bus with new friendships, a renewed sense of faith in mankind, a great resume builder and a new outlook on life,” said Andert.
UND student writer