The Champlin Park High School students stayed late every Monday for months, worked from home and logged hours over spring break.
By the time they were done counting, student leaders compiled some big numbers: The high school’s Leo Club logged 13,000 service hours and helped 8,400 people.
The four students who tallied the community service efforts will be recognized this week in Washington, D.C., by the Jefferson Awards Foundation. The quartet — John Zheng, 17; Megha Verghese, 15; Will Asinger, 15; and Grace Bassekle, 16 — already won regional recognition. They find out Thursday if the foundation picks Champlin Park High as a national winner.
The idea to enter the competition started with Zheng. As a member of the Leo Club, the school’s service organization sponsored by the Dayton Lions Club, he liked the idea of tracking its results.
“We never really dove into the other factors [behind service projects] — how they were created and the impact they made,” he said.
He found other interested students and formed a team to enter the national Students In Action competition through the Jefferson Awards, which recognize community service.
They prepared video and written submissions touting the work of the Leo Club, which has 270 members and raised $14,000 during the school year. Its projects included coat drives, making sandwiches for the homeless and raising money for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico.
Jane Hansen, the school’s youth services coordinator, said students have entered the Jefferson Awards competition in the past, but these students were the first to “put their hearts and souls into it.” Their enthusiasm came as more students are leading the way on Leo Club projects, partly because they’ve seen other young leaders taking initiative with community projects, she said.
“I feel like students are more aware because it is in the public and it is out there,” Hansen said. “But there are some very intuitive students who do start to realize that they can make a difference.”
This is Champlin’s first trip to the awards and the third straight year the Anoka-Hennepin School District has been represented at the awards. Blaine High School students have attended the last two years.
The Champlin students will be recognized along with fellow Minnesotans Abbie Nelson and Pia Phillips, creators of PAB’s Packs, a nonprofit that provides comfort items to children and teenagers facing chronic illness.
Chris Bowling • 612-673-4434