Students Today Leaders Forever

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Students Today Leaders Forever
FounderBrian Peterson
Greg Tehven
Irene Fernando
Nick Lindberg
DissolvedMay 2018
TypeYouth development
FocusTo reveal leadership through service, relationships, and action.
Area served
United States
ProductPay It Forward Tour
Leadership Camp
Key people
Joe Delgado, Board Chair

Students Today Leaders Forever's (STLF) was a non-profit organization that engaged in and encouraged servant leadership, primarily carrying this out through facilitating cross-country service trips, called "Pay it Forward Tour"s, for students within the United States.[1][2] The mission of the organization was to reveal leadership through service, relationships, and action as a result of these tours.[3] STLF allowed voluntary participation to students in the middle school, high school, and collegiate level. STLF stated its purpose was to provide leadership experience and encourage students to become catalysts for positive change in their own lives, schools, and communities. Before dissolving, it had chapters at 32 universities in 10 states.[4] It dissolved in May 2018, citing "challenges in program participation and fundraising".


STLF was founded in September 2003 at the University of Minnesota by four Carlson School of Management freshmen.[5][6] STLF's first Pay It Forward Tour went out in March 2004. In total, 788 Pay It Forward Tours were completed with 30,375 total participants. STLF's national office was headquartered in Minneapolis, with student-led college chapters and programming partnerships with many high schools and middle schools across the United States. The following is a timeline of various STLF milestones:

Date Milestone
September 2003 STLF Founded
March 2004 First Pay It Forward Tour
May 2005 Incorporated as Non-Profit
September 2007 First Full-Time Employees Begin
June 2008 Awarded Social Entrepreneur's Cup


The Pay It Forward Tour was a multi-day volunteer trip focused on service, education, and reflection. Groups of students traveled by charter bus across the United States and volunteered in a new city each day of a 9-day trip,[7] intentionally coinciding with Spring Break for many universities.[8] Lodging accommodations were organized through non-profits who willingly allowed STLF volunteers to sleep overnight in their facilities without pay. On arrival, students participated in a single or variety of group service activities, toured the city, and participated in leadership exercises and bonding activities. As tours continued, leadership activities were to become more personal to the groups of students in conjunction with attempts at increased internal bonding and exploration of concepts such as personal struggles, societal pressures, and individual growth.[9] While city destinations were unique for each tour, all tours concluded with a final stop at one of each year's "destination cities" where an organization-wide service project was held with all schools arriving, in addition to celebratory activities, titled the "Yeah Buddy Bash". Use of the phrase "Yeah Buddy" and the Sign of the horns together was encouraged as part of the culture of the organization.[10] Each attendee paid $525 per trip to accommodate for gasoline expenses and twice-daily meals.[11]

Each "Pay it Forward Tour" was planned and facilitated by volunteer student leadership within a chapter. Three to five individuals worked together in a shared leadership model called the Core Model. The Core Model allowed the individuals involved to work toward a common purpose. The purpose of the model was for the "Core" to work together to share overarching areas, while opting into individuals strengths and role-specific responsibility areas.

In addition to the Pay It Forward Tour, STLF held Summer Leadership Camps for college chapter leaders.[12] Leadership Training was also hosted for students.


The Engaged Philanthropy Conference awarded STLF the 2008 Social Entrepreneur's Cup[13] – an honor recognizing Minnesota's top innovator for social change. TIME Magazine used STLF and the Pay it Forward Tour as an example within its #2 Way to Serve America in ’21 Ways to Serve America.'[14] In 2010, STLF was recognized as the first organization to complete its Accountability Wizard review featuring the Council's new Accountability Standards.[15]


  1. ^ "You don't have to go far to do good - Travel - Rob Lovitt columns | NBC News". 2016-03-05. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  2. ^ "On spring break, they spread kindness - The Boston Globe". Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  3. ^ "Students Today Leaders Forever -- Meets Standards". 2016-03-07. Archived from the original on 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  4. ^ "Service today, memories forever: Volunteering changes communities and lives". Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  5. ^ Holmgren, Katy (Fall 2006). "A group of Carlson School students launches a unique community service organization that's taking off—and changing the way some students view spring break" (PDF). Carlson School. Minneapolis, MN: the Regents of the University of Minnesota. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  6. ^[bare URL PDF]
  7. ^ "Gophers linemen discover spring break with a purpose". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  8. ^ "NDSU students join Pay It Forward Tour". Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  9. ^ Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF) (2011-02-22), STLF in 3 Minutes: Who we are. What we do. Why we do it., retrieved 2018-09-18
  10. ^ Chris Flaten (2018-09-10), The Final Yeah Buddy, retrieved 2018-09-18
  11. ^ "NEED SPRING BREAK PLANS? STLF May be for You!". Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  12. ^ "STLF Leadership Camp 2018 Brochure". Issuu. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  13. ^ New award targets change |
  14. ^ Take a Tour – 21 Ways to Serve America – TIME
  15. ^ Charities Review Council – News Releases