Savage, MN,
08:00 AM

Small, but Mighty

One fifth grader's contagious mission to serve

Sharing Time, Treasures and Talents

A charismatic leader has his team’s rapt attention as he introduces their next project, one with an international focus. He calls on a team member to help define how the work supports the team’s mission. He provides positive feedback by acknowledging the team member’s contribution. He reiterates goals and provides clear direction on how to begin.

Finally, he rallies the team to tackle their work with an enthusiastic, “let’s make it a great meeting, ok!”

This leader isn’t a motivational expert giving a TED talk or a successful CEO or entrepreneur. He’s a fifth grader - addressing members of the Service Club he started at his school three years ago to help his peers and community.

The project is “plarn” - a process that uses plastic bags as “yarn” to create mats and rugs. The children make plarn balls out of plastic bags they collect. The group sendssend the plarn to women in Uganda who will use it to create items for their homes.

Shrey G. Pothini is no ordinary young man.

Shrey, who just turned 11, is already making a positive impact in his community – and across the globe. He is defying assumptions adults may have for a boy his age.

The preteen started the Service Club at Harriett Bishop Elementary in Savage, MN, to help his peers feel a sense of belonging within their school and community by participating in leadership and philanthropy. With Shrey’s leadership, interest in the club – and the club’s reach – has grown tremendously.

“I’m really excited we have kindergartners through sixth graders participating in the club,” exclaimed Shrey. “Over half of the 100 club members are kindergartners through third graders. We include their siblings too if they want to join in on our projects. We may be young, but we are also a very powerful group!”

This enthusiasm drove Shrey’s desire to find a way for other young kids to get involved in service opportunities before junior high. With help from his mother, Seema, Shrey applied for a grant to expand the club to the nine other elementary schools in his school district.

The project so impressed the State Farm Youth Advisory Board (YAB), they agreed to help Shrey expand the club. The YAB gave Shrey’s school $25,000 to cover expenses to establish additional clubs.

As the rest of the district joins in, Shrey continues to lead his peers toward meaningful work, allowing them to share their time, treasures and talents. Club members have:

  • educated their peers about global children’s rights,

  • sent educational supplies to schools in Guatemala,

  • created poetry art for a nursing home, and

  • helped students empower themselves by learning self-defense.


View INFOGRAPHIC of Harriet Bishop Elementary Service Club Impact

“Students who are in the club are looking at their daily life differently and beginning to identify ways they can help other people,” Principal Erika Nesvig shared.

For other schools considering implementing a similar club, Nesvig recommends the club be student-led and considers projects that go beyond raising money for a cause.

“When the students had to grow their hair to make wigs, or when they collected stuffed animals for donation, it had a greater impact on them and helped them feel a greater sense of reward,” stated Nesvig.

We need more young people like Shrey Pothini, and more groups like the Service Club, to help make our world better. Clubs like Shrey’s help kids learn empathy for others and give them a better sense of how they fit into the larger global community.

Learning this is a huge step toward becoming adults who care about giving back. Be like Shrey and do something today to make a difference!