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Kelly Smith, Published December 24 2008

Students give back with Project Linus

Students at Woodrow Wilson Community High School in Fargo are used to sometimes being underestimated.

“We get a bad rep here,” said 17-year-old Stormy Westerholm. “But the fact we do something for the community every month – it’s big.”

Each month, the alternative high school students tear apart any stereotypes society may have of them by pulling together to give back with a community service project.

The holidays are no different.

All students at the school – about 100 of them ages 16 to 20 – gathered in their gym Tuesday morning to tie together blankets.

They made 60 last year. Their goal this year: 100 blankets.

But it turns out even the students underestimated themselves.

They easily made and slightly surpassed their goal.

On Tuesday they crafted 105 blankets that will go toward Project Linus, a national effort that gives blankets to hospitals and other people in need.

Of last year’s blankets, 40 went to warm the Pelican Rapids (Minn.) High School students involved in last April’s bus accident on Interstate 94.

“It can help out people in need,” said 19-year-old Timiro Elmi as she cut a light blue blanket with two of her cousins – all originally from Kenya.

The students spent about a month collecting $256 in change to buy the fleece.

“We’re learning together to give back,” teacher Colleen Taylor said.

Learning together, from a group that is especially close.

“It’s a very tight-knit community,” said building administrator Pat Schroeder.

“This is your family,” Westerholm added.

The students come from South High, North High and even outside the metro area. They’re drawn to the alternative high school for various reasons – some, for the small, independent learning environment; others, because there’s “not a lot of judgment here,” said 16-year-old Taylor Peterson.

“We send them out to people who really need them,” said classmate Louis French, 17, as he helped Peterson. “It brings them comfort.”

Comfort from a group that doesn’t always get the credit they deserve.

“Our kids do this all year long,” Schroeder said. “This is a group that deserves a lot – often doesn’t have a lot – and (yet) gives back.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515