If you attended Lincoln Southeast High School today, chances are you would graduate with a deep understanding of and appreciation for community service.
Starting this year, Lincoln Southeast juniors are encouraged to find something in their community they want to improve and actually do something about it. Through the Pay It Forward Fund, students can work with a faculty advisor to develop a proposal for a project, and complete it the following year.
LSE principal Brent Toalson established the fund, as well as the Community Service Recognition Wall to honor those students who acted on their ideas and have improved the community. “I didn’t want these good things to be forgotten,”, said Toalson. “I wanted a reminder that the mission statement at Southeast is learning, leadership, and service.”
Juniors in U.S. history classes are told about the application process. They have until the end of February to submit ideas. One project will be chosen in March as the winner, and students will have until April of their senior year to complete it. A faculty advisor and a community mentor will assist students as they progress.
The inspiration for the Pay It Forward Fund, and the first project featured on the Community Service Recognition Wall, was the playground renovation at Antelope Park in 2000. Students renovated the deteriorating playground at Antelope Park and made it accessible to all children, including ones with physical, developmental, or sensory disabilities. It was quite an undertaking.
The second project recognized on the Community Service Recognition Wall is a Habitat for Humanity house. Southeast was one of the first high schools in the nation to raise money for and build a Habitat for Humanity house.
Current students look at the past projects as inspiration. “Right now the fund has $7–$8,000,” Toalson points out. “We want to endow the fund so it will continue forever, so we need to get to $30,000. This is our trial run and we are really excited to start now. We wanted to get started before we were endowed.”
Members of the community are ready to pitch in. A Southeast distinguished alumni, Topher Hansen, helped to come up with the idea of getting the community to raise seed money for a fund that supports students as they learn to impact others positively. “It ties into the traditions of service at Southeast and we are really proud of those traditions,” states Toalson.
Looking at his school’s mission, Toalson reflects, “At Southeast we have a wall recognizing student achievement, a wall for distinguished alumni and athletes, and now we have a wall for service.” An excellent example of Foundation funds supporting education beyond the classroom, this is great public education at work.