Living a Better Story: Project encourages students to write their own future, help community

Mariah Guerrero

Twenty-four students participated in Living a Better Story, a service project aimed at helping people understand their importance in the process of helping the community they live in.

The project ran from October 6 to November 3 and included members from the Texas A&M Aggie Blossoms, Bryan High Key Club, and many other students. Together they raised $839.02, which will be donated to different organizations around the community.

Living a Better Story (LABS) was created by Mack Strange, a pastor from Summitt, Tennessee. One Sunday he told the attendants to use some of their own money on something that they strongly believe in and change it for the better. Times have changed since LABS started, and has instead shifted it’s focus on high school students to get them to have an active part in serving their community. Strange believes that each life has a story and hopes this project helps students find their way.

“Some of these students feel good about their stories,” Strange said. “Some of them do not. Some feel that because of their family origin, family history, geographic location, and community culture [that] their stories are already written.”

Although LABS is about helping the community, it is also about showing students that they can change their story for the better through one life at a time. One day at her after school job at Subway, senior Regan Deville noticed a homeless man that was always walking around outside the building.

“He came in one day and he asked a customer if he would buy him dinner,” Deville said. “I jumped in and offered [to pay] instead.”

Although Deville’s original plan was to create dog toys and sell them at local veterinary clinics and dog pounds to donate to the deforestation prevention and animal cruelty awareness, this unexpected experience gave her a better understanding of what LABS means. Giving back doesn’t have to be about a complicated process, it can be a simple gesture and result in opening minds, hearts, and hands to others in need.

“A lot of people think that if they aren’t expected to have a good future then they should just give up,” Deville said. “[LABS] provides people with the motivation to change what is expected of them. We need to work together to make the world a better place instead of tearing each other down.”

Sophomores Lexi Durbin, Bridget Vilas, and Connor Campbell focused on hunger in the Brazos Valley for their LABS project. For four days, these students sold baked goods and raised $105. They donated this money to an employee at Bryan High who purchases food for students to take home.

“It felt good to change something in my community,” Durbin said. “Some kids don’t have food at home and that’s a big problem.”

Although the task initially sounded daunting to many students, they soon realized they were capable of impacting others in a big way.

“Even though I’m a high school kid I learned that it’s simple to raise money for a good cause,” Durbin said. “You don’t need a lot of money to raise money for others. A lot of people think you have to have money to donate money.”

Sophomore Ashley Konderla enjoyed working on the project because it gave her the opportunity to see other students reach out to help even though they were not members of Key Club.

“I liked that people recognized what we were doing was for a cause and then that encouraged them to buy things to help,” Konderla said. “It was nice to know that people actually care.“

Next spring, Key Club plans to do LABS again and involve student athletes, Shy-annes, color guard members, and band students so that more people in need will be reached and more stories will be written.

“I am hoping more students will get involved and know it’s not as time consuming as it sounds,” Konderla said. “Whenever you’re finished with the project you feel like you have accomplished something that was meaningful.”

Student involvement allowed for the message of LABS to shine through as different projects raised money and awareness for issues within the community while also helping the participants understand that they have the power to change the world.

“My message is, your story is not already written,” Strange said. “Each day you have a new page, a new opportunity to write a better story for your life. As we see each day this way, we can write a story we feel great about, a story we can embrace because it has the meaning and purpose we desire.”