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DL student council earns national honor

DETROIT LAKES - Not only did the Detroit Lakes student council's Care Week provide support for the community, it also earned the student council national accolades.

Student council advisor Bonnie Mohs received word a couple weeks ago that the group had won the National DifferenceMaker Award, developed by Mike Smith and given out by the Alliance for Student Activities.

"His basic philosophy is 'Every day, you should try to make a difference in the life of at least one other person,'" Mohs said of national speaker Mike Smith.

The student council's Care Week, started two years ago, has helped many people. The first year they helped those with cancer, and this past school year, the one mentioned in the application, they helped feed the hungry in Becker County.

"It is really, really impressive," Mohs said of the win. "It just shows the level of community of support that we have, and the students, and how they see a need and get behind it and go the max."

The first year of Care Week, the council set a goal of raising $2,000 in a week to go toward cancer. Mohs had her doubts on the goal, but gave in. The students ended up raising $4,000.

The second year, after checking out a community needs assessment done by the United Way, students felt hunger was the issue to tackle that year.

"They decided they were going to try and raise $4,000 for hunger in Becker County. I went, '$4,000, you guys, that is just so much. Let's go back to our original goal of $2,000.'"

"No, no, no, we gotta have $4,000," was the response she received.

"They got behind it, and we ended up raising $5,600 or $5,800. They really, really did well."

The council hosted an assembly with Food Pantry Director Jack Berenz telling students about the need in Becker County. LuAnn Porter talked to students about the needs of hungry children in the county as well.

There were cash drives, cookies sold, the Mr. DLHS "mangeant," a food drive and a semi-formal dance.

With proceeds from the week, the council sponsored one month of food at the Boys and Girls Club, one month of food for the MAC/NAPS program, money to the Food Pantry and $1,000 to the United Way for the new backpack program the organization is starting.

"We identified needs within the community, and they were broad based needs so we took care of young mothers and children, the elderly and the children in the Boys and Girls Club and then the Food Pantry, which serves all ages. We tried to spread it around."

For their national win, the student council received a plaque for the school and Mike Smith will come do a free assembly for the school, a $3,000-$5,000 value.

"We often hear that young people are the leaders of tomorrow. With their demonstrated concern for the people in their community and their willingness to do something to help those less fortunate than them, the student leaders at Detroit Lakes High School have shown that they are leaders in their community today," Lyn Fiscus, vice president of the Alliance for Student Activities, said in a press release. "We applaud their efforts and salute them as DifferenceMakers."

Involving more than the student council was key in helping so many people and winning this award.

"I think just the total process we went through set us apart from others," Mohs said.

When she sent in the application for Care Week to be honored as the DifferenceMaker, Mohs said she hoped they would win after a few efforts in the past.

"I thought they had a really good project and because our project was so all encompassing, I thought that we stood a chance and I figured if we didn't apply, we wouldn't win, so I figured it was worth the time to fill out the application and see.

"It's really, really exciting. It's the top award in the nation."

The council also found out at the end of the school year that they had received a gold level of excellence this year from the National Association of Student Councils.

"We were the only school in Minnesota that received that," she added.

"It was a good year."