Minnetonka students have many opportunities to become involved in the local community through service and volunteering. One of the unique options at Minnetonka High School is each class’s “Legacy” project, a four-year service project for each grade level. In the program, students have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on their local community throughout their high school career.
“Each Legacy group meets on a regular basis and plans fundraising and awareness campaigns to support their desired cause,” explained Sarah Johnson, Community Service Specialist for Minnetonka Public Schools. “During a typical year, Legacy groups do two service projects, such as donation drives, [and] during sophomore year, the Legacy group plans a speaker for their entire class.”
Devoting their legacy to improving students’ mental health at MHS and beyond, the Class of 2021’s Legacy Service Project aimed to destigmatize mental health, provide students with mental health resources and create a safe place for students who may be struggling with mental illnesses.
“We decided that mental health was a really big topic in our community,” said Rebekah Thomasson '21, one of the six co-leaders of their Legacy project. “I think it's a topic everybody needs to be aware of, to learn how to take care of their mental health and well-being.”
In particular, Thomasson recalled a project she helped organize within Legacy where students collected materials and created gift boxes for children struggling with mental health at the Children's Hospital of Minnesota.
“My role in Legacy was to be a voice leader in the club, to help organize all of the projects and to make sure that we're continuing to focus and build upon our legacy throughout the four years,” Thomasson said.
Beginning in Spring 2020, the Class of 2021 faced an unprecedented challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited their in-person meetings and service project options. The Legacy team had to think creatively to continue their impactful work through virtual opportunities.
Undaunted by this change, Ming Ying Yeoh '21, a Legacy co-leader, joined Thomasson to create a series of videos that aimed to reduce stigma around mental health issues, as well as to provide students with various mental health resources.
In addition to being co-leaders of Legacy, Yeoh and Thomasson were also part of the Minnetonka Schools Mental Health Advisory Council, which included many District staff members, social workers, psychologists and therapists.
Working with the Mental Health Advisory Council, Yeoh and Thomasson created a series of videos sharing mental health resources. The videos aired on MHS student announcements during May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. These videos included interviews with District staff members such as Chris Lawler, a school-based therapist, and Dr. Andrea Johnson, a psychologist. They were also made available through Principal Erickson’s social media pages.
“We really wanted to have videos that could be used for years onward, sharing everything that students have access to in our community,” Thomasson explained. “That’s the idea of Legacy, leaving behind a ‘legacy’ that future classes can see, be a part of and continue as they progress through high school.”
“I think [Legacy’s] focus on recognizing and valuing community along with a central goal of service helped me to see MHS as a community with so much to offer. It also helped me realize how much making a difference—or leaving a positive legacy—really mattered to me,” Yeoh said. “High school will shape the kind of person you become, and I think Legacy is a great way to be a part of something fun, fulfilling and rewarding.”
“Legacy isn’t like any other clubs at the high school," Thomasson added. "Your voice can be heard throughout those four years, and you get a chance to make a lasting difference over that amount of time.”
Thank you for making a difference, Class of 2021! Learn more about upcoming class Legacy Projects here.