Friday, January 25, 2008

Anonymous donor contributes $50 million - Emily Carlson



Money to Opus College of Business

An anonymous donor has given $50 million – one of the three largest gifts to higher education in Minnesota history – to the University of St. Thomas' Opus College of Business.

The gift to St. Thomas' "Opening Doors" capital campaign will be used to increase the college's endowment. For generations to come, interest income from the endowment will be used for academic programs and scholarships.

"For a dean, a gift like this is a dream come true," said Dr. Christopher Puto, dean of the Opus College of Business. "Earlier gifts have provided us with new academic facilities that are the finest available. The $50 million opens the door to exciting new opportunities for our students as well as faculty."

For students, the gift will support scholarships at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It also will provide a whole new level of support for student activities outside the classroom, including research and participation in national conferences and competitions.

For faculty, the gift will make possible several new professional development programs, especially in the area of business research.

"Support for research and professional-development is essential to retaining and attracting the best possible faculty," Puto said. "We recently have attracted prized business faculty members from Northwestern, California-Berkeley, Stanford, Duke, Michigan State and the University of Minnesota. The kind of support this $50 million makes possible is a huge asset as we continue to develop our respected faculty."


The $50 million anonymous gift announced today equals the one made to St. Thomas in 2000 by Best Buy founder and chairman Richard Schulze and his late wife, Sandra. The largest gift, $60 million, was given to St. Thomas last fall by Lee and Penny Anderson. He is owner and chairman of the St. Paul-based APi Group Inc.

Opening Doors is an eight-year, $500 million campaign that was announced by St. Thomas in October. To date it has raised $317 million in gifts and pledges, an amount that includes the $50 million gift from the anonymous donor.

With the exception of contributions earmarked for construction projects, most of the campaign funds will build endowment for scholarships, endowed faculty positions and educational programs.

"This extraordinary gift will serve as a cornerstone of a capital fundraising effort that will afford St. Thomas students a whole new level of access and excellence," said the Rev. Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas. "The impact of a gift like this is enormous for St. Thomas and the entire region. We are deeply grateful not only for the size of this contribution, but for the donor's quiet but powerful commitment to the kind of education offered by our Opus College of Business … an education grounded in the liberal arts, in values and in ethics."

With 2,142 graduate students and 2,427 undergraduates, the Opus College of Business enrolls just over 40 percent of the university's 10,984 students. It offers undergraduate majors in 12 fields and master's degrees in eight, including day and evening MBA programs. The college's Center for Business Excellence enrolls another 7,800 participants annually in its continuing executive-education classes, and provides custom programs for 150 businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Classes are offered on the university's main campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as in Owatonna, Rochester, Bloomington, Maple Grove and Eagan.

The Opus College of Business also is home to nine centers and research institutes in the fields of health policy and medical affairs, ethical business cultures, entrepreneurship and small business, family business, nonprofit management and real estate.

Classroom facilities for the Opus College of Business include two recently opened buildings: the $22 million Schulze Hall that opened in Minneapolis in 2005, and the $25 million McNeely Hall that opened in St. Paul in 2006.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Men's Hoops gets Steve Fritz win No. 500 - Emily Carlson


Tommie Sports - Men's Basketball

W, 71-58
St. John's (M), January 21, 2008

Coach Steve Fritz could relax after a 71-58 win over St. John's gave him his 500th career victory. Sophomore guard Joe Scott scored nine consecutive points to fuel a 20-2 second-half run and lead the first-place Tommies (12-3 overall, 8-2 MIAC) to a 71-58 win over the visiting Johnnies (9-6, 6-4) and secure coaching victory No. 500 for St. Thomas head coach Steve Fritz.

The Tommies, who ran their MIAC home win streak to 27, remain tied for the conference lead with Gustavus at the halfway point of the 20-game conference race.

Fritz' teams are 500-236 in 28th years, all at St. Thomas, with only one losing season and 12 MIAC championships. He's just the 12th active Division III men's coach to reach the 500-win milestone.

Scott finished with a team-high 18 points, Al McCoy came off the bench to contribute 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists, and B.J. Viau had 10 points and eight rebounds. UST has won 11 of its last 12 games with Viau in the lineup.

The Toms had a 28-12 advantage in bench scoring, shot 51% from the field to SJU's 39%, and had a 34-30 rebounding edge.

Brady Brink had 21 points, 11 rebounds and three assists for the Johnnies, who had a three-game win streak snapped. Ryan Lieser added 11 points.

The Toms made only 1-of-9 from 3-point range in the first half and led just 33-32 at halftime. Scott scored nine points on three possessions to start a 20-2 run that built a 55-37 lead with 12:53 left. St. John's never pulled closer than 13 thereafter.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Playing it forward - Emily Carlson


Head coach Clifford Barthé of St. Augustine in New Orleans talks to his players, including senior guard Lamar Nicholas, left, during a timeout at The Catholic Spirit Christmas Basketball Tournament Dec. 27 at the University of St. Thomas. A former St. Augustine ­­­player, Karnell James, helped arrange the trip to Minnesota to play in the tournament. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

By Maria Wiering, The Catholic Spirit

Basketball wasn't the only thing that drew a team from St. Augustine High School in New Orleans to the University of St. Thomas for the annual Catholic Spirit Christmas basketball Tourn­ament.

It was also a combination of a short-lived but regrettably broken St. Augus­tine tradition, a network of generous St. Thom­as alumni, and one man's pay-it-forward dream spawned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

That man is Karnell James, 32, who played basketball for both St. Augustine and St. Thomas in the 1990s.

James went to St. Thomas in 1993 because he wanted to do something different, and he heard good things about the college from St. Augustine alumni attending the school, he said.

He went on to play basketball and make the university's Hall of Fame. He also was named the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference MVP twice before graduating in 1997.

He was living in Houston, Texas, when Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast in 2005. Twelve of his family members fled New Orleans and moved in with him.

They stayed for about six months, he said, and he shared a bed with his 8-year-old nephew for some of that time.

His former St. Thomas teammate, John Tauer, heard about James' situation, and "in no time at all" collected $7,500 in donations from St. Thomas men's and women's basketball alumni and their families, James said.

"When I received that, I was like, 'Unbelievable.' I had been gone so long from campus, and a lot of these people didn't know me," he said. "I felt honored that someone would think that much of me and my family to help us out. It was certainly a humbling experience."

The money helped tremendously, he said. It paid for new clothes for his family members, who had left New Orleans with almost nothing. He bought extra beds, more food and rented an apartment for a few months.

James' family is back in New Orleans now, he said.

Paying it forward

The experience was an eye-opener, James said. He realized it was time to start doing the things he had always dreamed about.

Now James is hoping to re-establish the bond his high school and university shared 10 years ago. And he's using basketball as the glue.

"I felt fortunate to be able to help my family at that time . . . and that was because of St. Thomas," he said.

James credits his St. Thomas education with helping him secure a job as an information technology administrator. His career allowed him to have the things in place, such as a house, when his family needed him, he said.

He wanted today's students of St. Augustine to have the same opportunity to experience St. Thomas, and that's when he dreamed up his pay-it-forward plan: He and his fiancée, Melinda Lawyer, paid for the team to fly to St. Paul for the tournament.

Despite the costs involved for their upcoming January wedding, Lawyer also thought it was important to contribute to St. Augustine, James said.

"She's so unselfish," he said. "She understands that there's more important things than just ourselves."

But the generosity didn't end there. Other St. Thomas alumni helped to pay for the team's hotel rooms. One took the players out for a steak dinner.

Basketball was a great way to get St. Augustine students to visit St. Thomas, James said. "You have to start with something they love, and everything will follow from there," he said.

Tournament travel

There are two good reasons for St. Augustine's Purple Knights to be in St. Paul: to play in the tournament and to consider attending St. Thomas for college, said the team's coach, Clifford Barthé.

St. Augustine's was established in the early 1950s as the result of racial segregation, Barthé said. Today, the school is still Catholic, all-male and all African-American. Founded by the Josephite Fathers and Brothers, the school has a reputation for quality education and wants to help its students any way it can, he said.

The Purple Knights went into The Catholic Spirit tournament Dec. 27 to 29 with a 13-3 record. The school won two of the three games it played and finished in third place.

Many St. Augustine alumni in the early 1990s, including James, attended St. Thomas thanks to Tom Holley, a former Josephite brother who worked at the school and who also attended St. Thomas.

Barthé coached or taught all of the 20 or so St. Augustine men that went to St. Thomas in the 1990s.

"The guys seem to have done well for themselves," he said.

The team met Dec. 26 with about nine St. Augustine graduates who still live in the Twin Cities area and who spoke to the Purple Knights about their experiences at St. Thomas.

When Holley left St. Augustine, St. Thomas lost its biggest booster and graduates stopped coming to Minnesota. But Barthé hopes that will change.

"[St. Thomas] sees the need for broadening their experience, and seems to be very interested in the guys who have come up here," he said.

The goodness of gratitude

St. Augustine, like many other schools in New Orleans, suffered damage from Hur­ricane Katrina. For six months, it joined with two other predominantly African-American Catholic girls schools - St. Mary's Academy and Xavier University Preparatory - to combine resources and weather the disaster.

All three schools have since reopened and maintained their student bodies.

James' generosity is typical of St. Augustine alumni and of James himself, Barthé said. The high school tries to impress upon its students the importance of sharing what one has, he said.

"We try to get into them that sense of family and . . . reaching back and helping the guys behind," Barthé said.
There are a few Purple Knights who plan on applying to St. Thomas, he said.

St. Augustine senior Lamar Nicholas, 18, said he's applying to St. Thomas because he liked the people he met. "It kind of reminds me of home," he said.

"[I hope] the experience of them coming here broadens their horizons and broadens their base of their knowledge - those are the reasons why we came," Barthé said.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Who will lead the purple and gray? - Emily Carlson


Former St. Thomas Football coach Don Roney, who resigned last November. Now you have the change to pick/meet the new head coach!

Students, faculty and staff invited to meet football coach finalists

University of St. Thomas students, faculty and staff are invited to meet the four finalists for the head football coaching job.

The candidates will each be on campus one day this week, starting Tuesday, Jan. 15, and continuing Jan. 16, 17 and 18. Open sessions will be held each day from 11 to 11:50 a.m. in Koch Commons.

Meet the candidates sessions

Tuesday, Jan. 15
Gordy Shaw, former University of Minnesota offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator

Wednesday, Jan. 16
Jim Zebrowski, offensive coordinator at Wisconsin-Whitewater (2007 NCAA champions) and former head coach, Lakeland (Wis.) College

Thursday, Jan. 17
Steve Ryan, head coach at Morningside (Iowa) College

Friday, Jan. 18
Glenn Caruso, head coach at Macalester College

For more information call Gene McGivern in the Sports Information Office, (651) 962-5903.

Monday, January 14, 2008

First Friday Speaker Series - Emily Carlson


Event Details
Friday February 1, 2008 at 12:00 PM
Event Name: February First Friday

Description: Ellen Breyer
Chief Executive Officer, Hazelden Foundation

Since its 1949 founding in a lakeside farmhouse in Center City, Minn., the Hazelden Foundation has grown into one of the world's largest, most-respected, and best-known private alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers in the world. Thousands of people from all 50 states and 42 foreign countries have turned to Hazelden to find expertise and quality care.

In 2002, Ellen Breyer was named chief executive officer of the Hazelden Foundation. At the time, the nonprofit had a negative operating budget. Breyer led the organization through a refocusing that has included additional efforts with outreach, expansion into new markets and a comprehensive rebranding effort. The organization has realized an operating surplus the last two years which is allowing the organization to focus on new forms of treatment.

Luncheons begin at noon and the cost is $25. No refunds will be made and no tickets will be sent. Seating is open, so please allow enough time if you are meeting someone at the luncheon. Pre-registration is required.

Location: The Depot, 225 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis

Directions:
From south: Take I-35W north to “Downtown Exits” on left. Take Fifth Ave. exit. Go straight on Fifth Ave. nine blocks to Washington Ave.

From north: Take I-35W south to Highway 280 South. Follow Highway 280 south to 94 west. Take 94 west to the 5th Street exit. At the bottom of the exit, veer to the left and proceed around the Metrodome. Take a right onto 5th Ave. and proceed to Washington Ave.

From west (via I-94): Take I-94 east to the 4th St. exit. Follow 4th St. to 5th Ave. S. and turn left. Follow to Washington Ave.

From west (via I-394): Take I-394 east to Washington Ave. Turn right on Washington Ave. to 5th Ave. S. and turn left.

From east: Take I-94 west to the 5th St. exit. At the bottom of the exit, veer to the left and proceed around the Metrodome. Take a right onto 5th Ave. and proceed to Washington Ave.

Contact: Register online with a credit card by clicking the following link. Registration deadline is January 25th.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the First Friday Series please contact UST Alumni Association, (651) 962-6430 or ustalumni@stthomas.edu.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Northern Ireland: Hope and Love in the Wake of the Troubles - Emily Carlson


by Doug Hennes '77 : Photo by Mike Ekern

The students at Edenbrooke Primary School are exuberant as they scamper around the courtyard on a mild January morning, playing tag and dodge ball,
and their laughter makes one smile. Recess is one of education’s great inventions, giving youth a chance to burn off excess energy before returning to their classroom regimen.

Two sides of the courtyard are bordered by high brick wall stopped with barbed wire – no real surprise because barbed and razor wire are everywhere you walk in this city, a painful reminder of a history of segregation, sectarianism, distrust and hatred.

Every now and then, a child stops in front of a section of brick wall and pauses to look at a freshly painted mural. It is an underwater scene, with brightly colored fish and other sea creatures. The child points at something in the mural, laughs and runs off to join his friends. The mural is no real surprise, either, because murals depicting that painful past are everywhere you walk in this city, where citizens are forging a better future and want to live not just in peace but also in harmony.

There is something different about the sea mural, however. It was painted not by nationalists or unionists but by students from the University of St. Thomas. As the school bell rings and the courtyard empties, the mural stands alone – a testimony of American artistry and affection.

The 10 St. Thomas students who painted the mural did so as one of many tasks during their three-week VISION trip to Northern Ireland. They spent most of their time in Belfast, carrying out service projects such as painting in schools and youth centers, serving breakfast at two schools, meeting with teenagers and visiting organizations as varied as the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and Women in politics. They also spent a weekend in Derry (or Londonderry, depending on your political persuasion) and walked the Bloody Sunday route where 13 people were killed in 1972.

Late at night, often after 12- to 15-hour days, the students crowded into a living room in their New Life Community Center flat just a block off Shankill Road, the long-time hub of Protestant activism. There the students would reflect on what they learned that day before turning in for a few hours of sleep and another day of discovery.

VISION trips typically involve a lot of manual labor, but the Northern Ireland venture focused more on intensive learning about the Troubles – the struggle between Catholics who want a united Ireland and Protestants who favor loyalty to Great Britain. Jacob Cunningham ’99, who spent two years as a volunteer with Youth Initiatives (YI) in Belfast before returning to St. Thomas in 2002 to run VISION, believed a January Term trip would be rich with potential.

“I have a lot of respect for YI and its work,” he said. “My experience as a volunteer changed my life in terms of relationships and the impact that Belfast kids had on me, and I knew it would be a good program for St. Thomas students, too.”

Seniors Sarah Quinn and Maureen Degnan were the student leaders. They were VISION veterans, each with six January Term or spring break trips, and Cunningham implicitly trusted them. Quinn brought the benefit of having studied in Northern Ireland during spring semester 2006, and she returned to Belfast last month to work as a YI volunteer for a year.

“It’s fun and it’s challenging,” Quinn said of her leadership role. “It takes a lot more energy than I thought it would. It’s constantly thinking, ‘Are we all getting along? Is everybody happy?’, and still having a good time myself.”

"There is a lot of pressure,” said Degnan, who cut her trip short by 10 days because of her grandfather’s death. “I love being able to implement what we have talked about as being most important, as well as just step back and be a participant with everybody else.”

The group began preparations last fall on campus and met several times to learn more about each other and the Troubles. All but two students – Mariah Wescott and Sara Hillesheim – had been on VISION trips, and all were women except Jon Barnes. “That’s OK,” he said. “I grew up with sisters. Waiting for the bathroom? I’m used to it.”

Despite the preparations, most of the students were surprised, after spending time in Belfast, how much they had misunderstood the Troubles.

“I knew there was all this stuff going on between Protestants and Catholics,” said Katy Hanson. “But I didn’t realize how deep it was and that it really wasn’t about religion – it was about politics.”

Kristen Lynn agreed and compared the conditions to living in a war zone. “Looking around, there is razor wire everywhere and murals everywhere. I definitely was not expecting it to be as evident and visible.” The extent of segregation surprised her, too: “It’s just a part of life. It’s acceptable, almost.”

Casie Reiss encountered poverty in both of her VISION trips – Belfast, and along the Texas-Mexico border at El Paso and Juarez in 2006. “You could touch it there,” she said. “Here, it’s not necessarily something you can see. The biggest thing is ideas – and you can’t use weapons to fight ideas.”

The conflict is most apparent on Falls Road, a longtime Catholic area where murals and graffiti pop up everywhere. One block-long stretch has 15 murals, and the targets aren’t just Protestants – one mural castigates President George Bush as “American’s greatest failure” and others comment on Iraq, Palestine and Cuba. The side yard of a home is dotted with plaques that commemorate martyrs, prisoners of war and innocent civilians who lost their lives during the Troubles.

While touring Falls Road, the contingent stops at Milltown Cemetery and finds a row of graves of “volunteers” who died during the Troubles, including hunger striker Bobby Sands in 1981.

The tour has a sobering impression on the students, and none more so than Julia Rogers. Her grandmother immigrated to the United States but two brothers remained in Northern Ireland and were members of the Irish Republican Army.

“I have a lot of family history in the conflict,” Rogers said. “I wanted to come here to look at it from a different perspective.” Her conclusion: “Both sides have definitely done a lot wrong. I can understand why if you were that oppressed by a government, you would resort to violence,” but at the same time she found some of the IRA’s tactics “brutal” and “excessive.”

Rogers recalled her emotions in walking the Bloody Sunday route in Derry, and how “I was really angry. I had to stop and pray for a little bit of forgiveness and help in letting go of that,” she said, “because hate doesn’t get you anywhere.”

The opportunity to work on positive projects at Edenbrooke – painting the mural, serving breakfast and participating in a forgiveness curriculum – became a balm for students.

“I loved interacting with kids,” Mandi Campeau said of serving 8 a.m. breakfast at Malvern School. “They’re all so cute. They brighten my day. I’m not a morning person at all. I don’t like getting up that early. But every time I leave there, I’m a happier person.”

One morning at Edenbrooke, several St. Thomas students sat with six and seven-year-old youths and talked about forgiveness.

Johnny Clark, who directs Youth With A Mission in Belfast, led the discussion and asked one girl to define forgiveness. “It means if you are mean to somebody, you say you’re sorry.”

He nodded and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in Belfast was nice to each other?”

The girl replied, “Yeah, and if it wasn’t so rainy.”

Students used Play-Doh to mold impressions of forgiveness – a heart, a dog and a man helping someone who had fallen down. One boy molded Play-Doh into brains and a heart – the first, he said, was to know you were wrong and the second was to feel it.

Whereas the Edenbrooke students were Protestants – most schools in Belfast remain segregated – the St. Thomas group witnessed a “cross community” experience earlier in the week with 10- and 11-year-old children who later spent five summer weeks in Minnesota as part of the Children’s Program of Northern Ireland (CPNI). The program was established in the 1970s to give children a break from the Troubles and to see how people from different religions can coexist peacefully.

The purpose of the January CPNI meeting at Brooklands School in Belfast was to bring together for the first time about 25 of the 75 students who would travel to Minnesota. The group was mixed – Protestants and Catholics alike – and for two hours they engaged in communication exercises. The students would reconvene three more times before departing for Minnesota in late June.

The St. Thomas students became so enamored with the cross community spirit that they told Cunningham they wanted to host the Belfast-area children during the summer. They spent July 12 at St. Thomas, engaging in activities that demonstrated that religion, race and ethnicity should make no difference in people’s ability to get along.

The VISION trip allowed Cunningham to renew friendships formed during his two years as a volunteer with YI, which helps teenagers and young adults learn life skills and develop personal values and beliefs. St. Thomas students spent many hours at the YI Project Center in west Belfast, cleaning, painting and meeting with Belfast teens.

Tony Silcock, 29, was one of those teens when he joined YI in 1994. He later spent two years in Detroit with Youth Works, another youth agency, before returning to Belfast in 2000 and now works with 15 to 20-year-olds in YI’s Lifeline program.

Dozens of Lifeline participants participate in seven six week modules a year, with two weeks on faith and God, two weeks on life skills and two weeks on relationships. Boys meet three evenings a week and girls, two. It’s a significant time commitment, Silcock admitted.

“Many of these kids won’t finish high school,” he said. “They need direction. A lot of them come from working class families, probably with single parents, and have low selfesteem.”

Peter Desmarais worked as a YI volunteer for a year after graduating from Trinity High School in Bloomington. His father, Gordon, a 1984 St. Thomas alumnus, is the founder of St. Paul’s Outreach, a lay ministry that works with college students and young adults.

“It’s all about relationships,” said Desmarais, a freshman at St. Thomas, when asked about the value of his YI work. “It means a lot when they see someone their age who has come from halfway across the world to help out.”

One evening, the St. Thomas contingent met with YI members, the women meeting in one building and the men in the center. The men divided into teams and played a series of games meant to enhance trust and communication.

In one game, a youth had to fall backwards into the arms of his team, trusting that he would be caught. The atmosphere was raucous, with table pounding and hooting when a youth peeked to see if he would be caught or if he buckled his knees. During charades and a riddles game, the youths were good-naturedly merciless in teasing whoever was in the spotlight.

“Three months ago, these guys wouldn’t have sat at the same table,” Silcock said afterward. “It’s a gradual process. They learn the importance of teamwork – that without it, nothing will be achieved, and that they need to communicate with each other and respect each other.

“A lot of friendships formed here will last a lifetime. We have an atmosphere where we don’t judge people. We just love them.”

Love: It was a word spoken often during the trip, and in different environments and contexts – at YI by battle-tested youth workers like Silcock, at the New Life Community Center when St. Thomas students convened for late-evening reflections, and at Edenbrooke during a forgiveness discussion.

“What kinds of things go with forgiveness?” Clark asked the little kids, and hands shot up. “I’m sorry,” said one. “Thank you,” said another. “I love you,” said a third.

Quinn saw that love in Belfast and Derry, just as she saw it during her five other VISION trips.

“There are amazing and beautiful people out there, and they have the biggest hearts,” she said. “Through the worst and best situations, they do nothing but love and care in any way that they can. You can just see the love in their eyes.”

And in a mural painted by visitors who wanted to make their own mark and to say thanks.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Freshman’s family motivates MS fight - Emily Carlson

By Mary Kenkel, The Aquin

Freshman Erin Weber lives an active life. She is an intercollegiate swimmer for St. Thomas who comes from a tight-knit family in South St. Paul, and loves the life she lives. But after her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991, her life has been anything but easy.
“I was three years old, and he was in his early 30s,” Weber said. “It was hard for my family to deal with, at first especially.”
It was difficult for the whole Weber family to adjust to the sudden changes caused by the disease, but it was even tougher on the parents because of two young children in the house, a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old.
“It was hard for my dad to deal with it and try to figure out what he was going to do,” Weber said. “You don’t really know how it’s going to affect you, because it affects different people in different ways.
But once he got used to the idea of it, and he explained it to me and my sister, it got a little easier.
“We just had to help out around the house and help my parents a lot more since my dad had trouble doing things around the house, like the dishes, because he would get really tired,” she said.
Then in 1999, the Webers found out a cousin Shannon also had MS. Shannon was in her late 20 when she was diagnosed. Her dad’s and her cousin’s disease led Weber to greater things. She began volunteering with the MS Society, an organization that helps families affected by MS.
“When someone gets diagnosed, the doctors usually give them information on who to contact if they need help, such as the MS Society,” Weber said. “My family signed up with the society, and they sent us information every month, like news on program connections. That’s how I learned about it.”
Weber started helping out in little ways, such as with the MS Read-AThon. In eighth grade, she went to youth camp.
“[The youth camp] got me a lot more interested in helping out with the MS Society,
so I started volunteering with the Minnesota Teen Council,” she said.
The Teen Council is a group of teens affected by MS who work with other teens in the society. Weber has been the chairwoman of the council for the past two years. The Teen Council works to spread awareness of MS in schools around the area. It organized a team for the Christopher and Banks MS Walk that raised more than $7,700, according to the MS Society Web site. Along with the Christopher and Banks MS Walk, Weber has participated the past three years in the Challenge Walk, a 50-mile walk in three days. Weber organizes an annual dinner fundraiser, her father Mike said. They
serve grilled chicken, charge $5 a plate and always have a good turnout.
“She always raises a lot of money at the dinner,” Mike Weber said. “And all of the money goes back to the society.”
Because of her volunteer work with the MS Society, Weber was awarded the Leadership Volunteer All-Star Award in November. She was the youngest of three recipients this year.
“My award was mainly for my work with the teen council and also with the
challenge walk,” Weber said.
The Minnesota Teen Council also won the Youth Volunteer All-Star Award. Volunteering means more to Weber than just helping out around the neighborhood. Because of the taxing effects MS has on her dad, Weber feels a strong personal connection with the volunteer work she does.
“It makes me feel really good knowing that I’m doing something to help people with MS, like my dad and my cousin, because it’s hard for them and their families to function like normal families if there wasn’t the MS Society,” Weber said. “And, over the years, I’ve made a lot of friends that I couldn’t really live without now. I just keep going back because I love helping out.”
Along with the friends she’s made through the Teen Council, Weber has her tight-knit family to offer encouragement and support whenever she needs it.
“My family is always really supportive of me and the work I do,” Weber said. “They help me out with fundraising and any other support that I would need.”
Weber’s parents are very proud of her and happy to offer all the help they can.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” Weber’s father said. “She’s very passionate about the work she does with the MS society. When she takes on a challenge, she takes it and runs with it. She can do whatever she wants because she’s not a quitter.”
By volunteering, Weber hopes to accomplish the big goals she has set for her
future and for the future of the council.
“By volunteering, I hope that I can engage other kids and young adults to join the fight against this disease that affects not only my family and friends, but the
family and friends of so many others,” Weber said. “I hope that by volunteering, I can make a difference in the world and give back to the MS Society for all that they have done for me and my family. And also, that in my help to raise money, some day they can find a cure for MS.”