PAULLINA—Students in grades 5-8 at Zion-St. John Lutheran School in Paullina did not expect their year’s worth of community involvement to land them a trip to Arnolds Park Amusement Park.

The pupils were therefore stunned when they recently learned the school was one of three that won “Making a Difference” contest sponsored by KTIV-TV in Sioux City, with the prize being a day of fun at the park.

“It was great to see the excitement on the kids’ faces,” said principal Jeff Schouten. “I think they were a little surprised because we had submitted the information about a month ago, so in a way they kind of forgot about it.”

The school submitted a two-minute slideshow video to the TV station in March that presented several community events, activities and projects the student body participated in throughout the past year.

Some of the activities shown were:

  • Wrapping and giving Christmas presents for an Adopt-A-Family program.
  • Volunteering at a community drive-thru soup supper.
  • Participating in the Christmas sweater fundraiser for Wonderland Theater in Paullina.
  • Donating a check to the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod’s Iowa District East to help with derecho relief efforts.

The slideshow also includes students’ academic achievements, such as pupils who made the honor roll and various classroom projects they completed. Also shown were photos of older students mentoring younger ones and displays of school spirit such as pep rallies.

“We’ve been blessed here in the community to be able to reach out to the community in a variety of different ways, even around some COVID protocols this year,” Schouten said.

A group of five seventh- and eighth-grade students worked with the school’s technology director, Jacque Bird, to craft the video. They compiled a list of different ways the school has helped make a difference in its community then looked through computer photo albums for pictures to include.

“I assigned different sections of the video, we came up with a general theme and everything that goes with that: the font, style, everything,” Bird said. “Once we got that together, they just had to really work on their part.”

They also brainstormed music to be played over the picture slideshow. Bird said the selection process involved lots of voting to eventually narrow down the choices. They settled on “Home,” by Phillip Phillips.

Bird was pleasantly surprised when she learned her and her pupils’ submission paid off. She and Schouten kept the news a secret from the students until April 20, when the students had a surprise video chat with a KTIV anchor Michaela Feldmann who told them Zion-St. John Lutheran had won.

“They definitely were not expecting to be talking about that at that moment,” Bird said. “They were all really excited.”

This story was first published in the May 1, 2021, print edition of The South O'Brien Sun.