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Ellsworth school students help fellow students in Afghanistan

Ellsworth High School's Just Do Something Club members have been collecting school and household supplies to send to Afghanistan. (front, from left) Carlie Melstrom, Jenna Flanigan. (middle row) Paige Strom, Estelle Jensen. (back row) Robert Menge, Justin Lewis, Chelsea Will, Jaimie Frye, Jessica Girgen and Emily Murphy. Submitted photo

There is a student organization at the Ellsworth High School called Just Do Something, a group promoting volunteerism.

And by them doing something, fellow students half a world away will see the results.

For the last couple of months, the group has been in the process of collecting school and household supplies to send to Afghanistan.

The connection is EHS teacher Ryan Casper is currently stationed there as a member of a National Guard outfit out of Duluth, Minn. This is the second "Hearts and Mind" Club Casper has organized. Four years ago, he did one when he was stationed in Iraq.

"Though my time in Afghanistan has been short, it is clearly evident that there is a much greater need here than in Iraq," Casper wrote on the Web site, "Iraq, as a whole, has an infrastructure to include electricity and roads; Afghanistan has few roads and little, if any, infrastructure."

Just Do Something advisor and EHS teacher Anne Pechacek explained Casper called her about a week into his tour asking if something could be done again.

"It was a great experience for the students last time," she said, as an estimated 500 Iraqi students received school supplies. "They felt good they're able to do something positive."

Pechacek brought the idea up to this year's edition and it was met with overwhelming support.

"I wanted to get involved so we could help kids over there," said student Robert Menge. "And create a better relationship with countries around the world."

Menge's fellow students Emily Murphy and Paige Strom echoed those same thoughts. Murphy added she believes this is a helping tool for students here, as it gives them a better understanding of what life is like for students in Afghanistan.

Pechacek said the Ellsworth School District-Prairie View and Hillcrest elementaries, the middle and high school, along with St. Francis Catholic School--have enthusiastically supported the project, along with community members.

"One day, I had five big boxes full of supplies in my mailbox," she said. "Everyone that has heard about it has chipped in on it."

The students have been surprised by the generosity.

"I think this is a really great thing," Menge said. "It shows that soldiers care about kids in Afghanistan."

Some of the items the club is looking for include notebooks, folders, pencils, pens, markers, color crayons, pink erasers, pencil box, soccer balls and soap.

"Every notebook or folder will help to keep the Taliban out of the villages and girls in the classroom," Casper said. "As I stated four years ago, if we can change one youth's mind toward American or Coalition forces in a positive manner, then the club will be a success." He added that, if one wants to send clothing or basic hygiene items, they're certainly welcome to do that as well.

Pechacek said the club will be accepting donations through the end of January and will start shipping shortly afterward. If interested in donating, drop the items off at the high school. Items will be shipped in backpacks or totes.

Casper is a social studies/geography teacher at the high school and also the varsity softball coach. All three students said Casper is one of the most well-liked teachers at the high school. He is expected to be in Afghanistan the rest of the school year.

"Please help us to help others and, in the process, become part of what I hope is an organization that can make a difference in the War on Terror," Casper concluded on the Web site's mission statement.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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