Learning to lead, lending a handAnne Tracy had the day off from school Monday, but she didn’t do much relaxing.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Anne Tracy had the day off from school Monday, but she didn’t do much relaxing. Instead, the Superior High School senior rang bells at Wal-Mart for the Salvation Army and launched a hygiene drive for Harbor House Crisis Shelters along with fellow members of the Youth Leadership Superior-Douglas County group. The teens called businesses, wrapped boxes in colorful paper and set them up at different sites.
“It’s just something more that we can do during the holiday season to really give back,” Tracy said. The items collected will brighten the season for people who aren’t looking for big ticket presents, she said, but “just need the bare necessities to get through.”
Initially the youth, who are members of the leadership program’s community outreach group, planned to hold a soap dive. Then they talked with representatives from Harbor House.
“And they have plenty of soap,” Tracy said.
The students decided to expand their scope to all hygiene products. Donations of shampoo, conditioner, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, tissues, feminine products, toilet paper, deodorant, floss, paper towels, lotion, hair products and more are being collected through Dec. 18. Gift-wrapped drop boxes are located at five Superior school district elementary schools, the Super One store on Banks Avenue, the Superior-Douglas County YMCA, Trends Salon & Spa, the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, M&I Bank and two Superior Choice Credit Union locations — 2817 Tower Avenue and 2302 E. Second St.
Dave Minor, chief executive officer for the Chamber, said the youth leadership program is entering its 10th year. Students join the program as juniors. The first year is dedicated to showing students the community so they understand what it really is. As seniors, they are asked to take what they’ve learned and give back as members of either the community outreach, school outreach or philanthropy group.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch the students do this process,” Minor said. “They look at things differently.”
Over the years, they have painted the interiors of shelters, collected winter clothing for youth, tied and distributed 70 fleece blankets to seniors at a local nursing home and brought a new perspective to adults making United Way funding decisions.
“They want to see their efforts are making a difference,” Minor said. Along the way, they learn the process of identifying a need and reaching out to help. For some, the program is an eye-opener. One former student was so impressed by what he saw at Solid Rock Mission that he continues to volunteer there every month.
“Each time we do this it’s so heart-warming,” Minor said. And the program had an unexpected side benefit. Students went home to tell their parents about what they learned. After every meeting, Minor said, he’ll get messages from parents interested in, for example, touring the same business their child did.
Tracy and the other members of the community outreach group have a host of other projects planned, but for now their focus is on collecting hygiene products for others.
The Youth Leadership Program will be accepting applications from current high school juniors beginning Jan. 4. Students at all Douglas County schools — Superior, Northwestern and Solon Springs high schools as well as Maranatha Academy — are eligible for the program. For more information, call Minor or Marge Brickey at (715) 394-7716 or go to www.superiorchamber.org/events/Youth_Programs.aspx. Applications are available on the website, at the Chamber office, 205 Belknap St., Superior, and at high school counselor offices.