People have been asking Storm Lake School District administrators why a food bank has been started inside the high school.
"Hey, you're supposed to be educating kids," they complain.
That sound they hear is the point, whizzing over their heads.
They are teaching kids, for gosh sake. Teaching them to be good human beings, and that might even be more important (*gasp*) in the long run than standardized test math scores.
I'm still waiting to use algebra II in real life, but what I learned in the Big Brother program back in my teens sticks with me every day.)
Teaching kids - scratch that. Even better, in this case, students are teaching THEMSELVES.
Yeah, the district provided a room in the new science wing at SLHS for a food pantry, and a faculty member stepped up as sponsor for the new effort. But from there, it is students who are doing the work, giving of their own time and labor to help other students, because they see the need in their community.
Brothers and sisters, that's an Education, with a capital E.
It's great to be the straight-A's valedictorian. It's great to be a high school sports hero, or first-chair violin, or captain of the cheerleaders.
But it's also very good experience to do something for someone else. To be attuned to the needs of the people around you, to be willing to do something about it, and capable to take responsibility for a social effort.
If I'm a college admissions director, better believe I want that kid. If I'm an employer, I'm circling that on their resume. Red ink.
That kid feels, and does, while everybody else talks.
For teenagers to recognize the need in their community says something both about the level of that need (75 percent of all students in Storm Lake schools qualify for free or reduced price lunches due to low income) and about the quality of our teenagers as human beings.
The fact that students are taking responsibility for responding to that need should be celebrated, not questioned. How many schools have a student-run hunger relief program? How many could pull it off if they tried? Not darn many, is right.
The students are terming their pantry "Tornado Alley." That's called ownership and pride. You can't buy that stuff or build it out of bricks and mortar.
With some grant funds, they have purchased a refrigerator, deep freeze and shelving. The facility will be open after school for students in need and their families, and it should be ready to begin handing out food by the end of the month. Shipments of food will come in monthly from Iowa Food Bank, which is proving to be an incredibly important partner for our community, for which we are grateful.
"The kids are pumped," says Superintendent Carl Turner. "What's really cool is that they are directing the thing."
Administrators have plenty of confidence in the students. Turner said that when questions or issues arrive regarding the new food program, he forwards them to the students to respond to. "Whatever comes up, the kids can figure out how to make it work," he said.
Why is the school doing it?
Because it needs to.
Turner then starts talking about Maslow's hierarchy of needs - which is the point in the conversation that my eyes glaze over just as they did in the back row of high school Psychology 201.
Abraham Maslow proposed "A Theory of Human Motivation" in the early 1940s - finding that people first need the basics - safety, self-esteem, a sense of belonging, and love, in order to grow.
In the case of Storm Lake schools, students need a full belly. "It's hard to learn if you are hungry," Turner says.
"You should be educating kids," the complainers say.
Heck yeah. Teaching them to care about other people, and how to do something about needs in their own community.
What if everyone in this world chose one way to help, and did it faithfully? Just one.
No matter who you are, what color or language or religion or economic status or age, whether you are an athlete or whelchair-bound, you could do one thing, and do that with all your heart, for a couple of hours a week or month.
Hand out food, mentor a child, hammer on a Habitat house, clean a beach, raise money for a playground or scholarship fund, send car packages to soldiers, whatever. There are a million ways to help and they all need people.
Life isn't always perfect. Everyone is likely to need a hand up, sometime. Might as well learn that young.
A whole lot of the problems we see could be solved, or at least reduced, if volunteerism and giving were our priorities.
You and I don't have to get Maslow to get that.
Storm Lake young people, it seems, already know it.
Now you know why they are doing it.
Bless them for it.
Any more questions?