Each lodge is encouraged to recognize outstanding youth in their communities. These recognitions encompass scouting, junior students, and high school students. In 2019 during the National Convention in St. Louis, the Youth Activities Committee was asked what we are doing to recognize high school students. This question got the committee to start discussing how we can recognize students. Within a 5-mile radius of our Lodge, there are 19 high schools between public and private. This led to discussions on how we can use this program to make a difference for students which resulted in our selecting alternative high schools to focus our program.
At risk high school students in alternative programs are close to not graduating from high school. This would close opportunities for these students. Working with these schools means not only giving the award for outstanding students who demonstrate academic achievement, attendance, and good attitude, but providing continuing mentorship of these students. This mentorship has included making monthly presentations to the students at the schools on veterans, skills when interviewing for a job, volunteering in the community, drug awareness, and food, as many of the students are food challenged and many are technically homeless. The topics to be presented are based on discussions with the schools on what the students need for today and the future. Lodge members with specific skills are encouraged to help develop and present the various topics. Lodge members have also stepped up to financially support each student to receive a $10 lunch voucher at an outside restaurant near their school. At the end of the academic year, the Lodge will provide a dinner for the students receiving the award each month and their families. At this dinner, the Student of the Year from each high school would be announced and receive a small monetary donation to help them pursue further education at a trade school or junior college. The cost of the dinner is covered by fundraising efforts by the committee. Our Lodge is currently working with two alternative high schools and hopes to expand the program in the future.
A paper certificate and a $10 lunch voucher may not sound like much to recognize student achievement, but the committee and all the Lodge members who have attended these presentations will tell you how much this continuous involvement has meant to the students. There are students who will come to us and say I am trying to win the monthly award. If you come to the Lodge, look for the wooden American flag with the St. Louis Lodge #9 logo, this was presented to the Lodge by the students to say “thank you” for your support. On the back of the flag, all the students signed their names.
This program is an example of “Elks Care, Elks Share.” Contact our Lodge if you would like to get involved with the program or if you are from another lodge who would like information on how to start a program in your area.