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Students play games for change

FHS Youth Development Team members include, in front from left to right, Tanner Fuchs, Isis Alexander, Alexis Preese, Miranda Larson and Katie Zitzman. In the middle are Aaron Dahl, Rebekah Sand and Rachel Sand. In back are Trevor LaChance, Kayla Hinrichsen, Darren Beenken and Alex Chadwick. The group will host Games for Change, a program to increase awareness about poverty in Farmington, next weekend.

There might not be people sleeping in cardboard boxes in Rambling River Park, but poverty is present in Farmington all the same. Now, a bunch of high school students aim to increase awareness, and hopefully lend a helping hand.

On March 19-20, about 120 Farmington High School students will spend the night at the school to help combat poverty in their own community.

Back in December, the students in Marianne Feely's Youth Development group started talking about what kind of service project they could do. One student mentioned he'd heard of another community where people slept in cardboard boxes for a night to help raise awareness of poverty.

That sounded like an interesting idea, but the concept wasn't entirely accurate for Farmington.

"They started talking about doing something, but trying to be respectful of what poverty looks like in Farmington," Feely said.

The economy has wreaked havoc in some families. Parents have lost jobs. There are families where a father or a mother is deployed, leaving their spouse at home on a slim income. To get a better idea of what poverty was in Farmington, the students looked at statistics - families who are enrolled in Toys for Town, families who go to the food shelf on a regular basis. They also looked at the notices that precede foreclosure notices in the community.

From those statistics, the students were able to get a better idea of what poverty was and how it affects people in Farmington.

"It doesn't mean poverty or bad times means you're living in a box in the street," Feely said. "But it could be your neighbor or the person sitting right next to you."

So, students came up with the idea for a lock-in. Students will spend the night playing basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, Wii, Rock Band and other games.

That might sound like a night of fun and games, but not just anyone gets to participate in Games for Change.

Students who will participate have earned the right to be there by collecting $20 each for 360 Communities - formerly called Community Action Council. The Youth Development students came up with the idea for Games for Change as a way to raise money and awareness. They put together a presentation they showed to the student body and the Farmington Rotary.

The student body was asked to form teams of six, with each student on the team raising $20 for Games for Change. That way, each team made $120. In order to set up the schedule for all of the games, the Youth Development crew set a goal of attracting 12 teams. They had 14 register.

Participating students will be asked to provide food for the Farmington food shelf, as well. The team that brings in the most amount of food will win a snack at midnight, courtesy of principal Ben Kusch.

Feely isn't sure how the whole night will go, but she is sure there will be lots of positive energy around the school.

"We're hoping to make it a tradition, something that will grow from our 12 to 14 teams to something bigger," she said. "It will be a fun night, I think."

The Farmington Rotary Club is providing adult chaperones for the event.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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