Name: Morgan J. Stutzman
From: Johnston, Iowa
Grade: High School Senior
School: Johnston High School
On a cold November night, I lay curled in my sleeping bag. The only
protection from the freezing rain surrounding me and my foreign
exchange friends is a layer of cardboard. The structure holds at
first but then it starts to seep in. I dodge the leaks trying to
find a dry spot. Despite the cold and rain, I remember what we are
supporting and won’t give up. Just as we’re packing up in the
morning, the rain ceases. I look at my friends and laugh at the
irony but we learned so much more having to weather the storm. We
look back to admire our cardboard creation—one of the few left
Reggie’s Sleepout is held annually at Drake University to raise awareness and
funds for the homeless youth population. Each team makes a cardboard
building and spends the night to experience life like the homeless.
I first volunteered for Reggie’s Sleepout with my foreign exchange
student, Vadym from Ukraine, whom my family hosted. It was an
incredible year full of valuable experiences and opportunities. It’s
not easy to bring someone, especially from another country, into your
home for an entire year. However, we enjoyed sharing our lives and
became like brothers.
Vadym and I worked together to lead our group for Reggie’s
Sleepout. We designed our cardboard home to resemble the United
Nations building to symbolize this group of youth from around the
world united help homeless youth.
Vadym and I volunteered for various service projects.
We were each awarded the Presidential Volunteer award for over 100
hours of service. I was also selected to attend the Iowa Student
Global Leadership Conference where I met 150 students from 40
countries. This was when my passion for leadership and service
The following year, I led my fellow members of the Youth Leadership
Initiative (YLI) in volunteering for Reggie’s
Sleepout. I created our box design and organized the event for our
group. Our design was modeled after a bridge because bridges are the
most common place for homeless to seek shelter. We titled it “Young
Leaders Building Bridges to Help Homeless Youth.”
YLI is a leadership program through the Des Moines Partnership that
develops young leaders in our city. This program introduced me to
businesses in our community showing us how to get involved and grow
as leaders. At the end of the year, I was honored with the
Outstanding Youth Leader award, out of the 40 students chosen for the
program. YLI made a lasting impact on me; I learned so much about my
community’s need for leadership and recognized my passion for
business and community service. After graduating from the program, I
was invited to return as a mentor.
As I lay in my warm bed, I recall Reggie’s Sleepout and imagine a
teenager who has not been as fortunate. I hope my involvement has
made a difference in at least one person’s life. These experiences
have fueled my passion for service and leadership.
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