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The City Journals

Murray Youth Excel Club exemplifies community service

Oct 31, 2016 12:17PM ● By Tyler Warren

The Murray Youth Excel Club gave 100 hours of service during the Red Cross Blood Drive this summer (Murray Youth Excel Club)

By Tyler Warren | [email protected]

Murray , Utah - We wanted to thank our police officers for all they have done for us,” said Rebecca Heaton, a senior at Murray High School at the Sept. 30 meeting of the Murray City Council. “So just like we gave the firefighters heat packs a few years ago when the rivers were flooding, we wanted to do the same for you. Thank you for taking the heat off of us,” she concluded and placed a homemade heat pack on the podium.

Heaton is a member of the Murray Youth Excel Club, which operates under the guidance of the National Exchange Club. She and other members of the Excel Club came to the meeting to honor police officers. But their service to the community was equally worthy of recognition. 

The Murray Youth Excel Club works under the principles of the National Exchange Club. They promote education, respect for the flag of the United States, volunteerism and community service. In particular, the Excel Club works closely with the National Exchange Club’s primary objective: the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence.

If you live in Murray, you have probably seen the Excel Club’s work before. 

“One of the most noticeable things we do is tie flags out in front of City Hall in April,” Heaton said. The Murray Youth Excel Club partners with the City for child abuse prevention month. Every pinwheel represents a reported case of child abuse in Murray. 

Another project that Murray residents may be familiar with is October’s Haunted Woods in Murray Park. The Haunted Woods is a Murray tradition that goes back 35 years. The Excel Club has been running it for the last five. All the proceeds of the Haunted Woods go toward the prevention of child abuse. Last year, the event raised $8,000.

Sheri Van Bibber serves as an adviser to the Excel Club, but she stressed that the students are responsible for finding their own projects. “They keep me in line more than I keep them in line. I just help guide them. They are the vehicle, I’m just the steering wheel.”

There are 25 students in the club, including some from Bingham and Skyline high schools. The students are heavily involved in projects both in and outside the classroom. Many of them are participants in student government, but it is the time they spend in community service that really shines. 

“We added up the hours our youth worked last year and they did over 1,500 hours of service,” Van Bibber said. “Like the cream always rises to the top these kids are the cream of the crop. They do projects all over the state.”

Much of the Excel Club’s work is done through homeless shelters across the Wasatch Front. Last year, students partnered with the Salt Lake Homeless Youth Shelter, South Valley Sanctuary, Taylorsville Family Center, Midvale Shelter, and the Utah Co-op. 

The students also partner with local nonprofits. One of these is the Burrito Project, which Van Bibber said they usually work with once a month. The Burrito Project is a group that meets two to three times a week to make and distribute 600 burritos to homeless people in downtown Salt Lake City.

This year, they have already been involved in more than 17 projects since July. Thirteen students have completed 100 hours of service for the Red Cross alone. The students are currently meeting with a new youth shelter to assess their needs and see what they can do to help.

The Murray Youth Excel club is so exemplary of the objectives of the National Exchange Club that Van Bibber was asked to attend the national conference in Houston, Texas over the summer. 

“They wanted to know how we get our kids to do service 12 months a year. Most people run their clubs through the high school. We run ours through the city. We’re always going,” Van Bibber said.

Some clubs at the conference expressed doubt that their students would be able to volunteer for the full year. Like so many aspects of life, Van Bibber said it comes down to finding the right balance. “We need to train our mentality,” she said. “Service doesn’t take a holiday.”