ST. CLOUD -- At McKinley-ALC, a group has been giving back to our nation's veterans for the last quarter century.

The District 742 school is celebrating the 25th year of the "Youth Service Project." The project brings students from McKinley to the St. Cloud VA to interact with veterans there.

The group started working with the VA when the school found it didn't have the staff for individual student projects. Kathy Lyerly and Mike Myers-Schleif coordinate the program at McKinley. Lyerly says the kids learn a lot through their experience with the veterans at the VA.

"It teaches them communication, respect and history. There are so many things that the kids get from even that small number of school days we take them out there."

Lyerly says the veterans love to see the kids come by.

"Just to see what the vets get from it. They're thrilled when we come out there, they love having young people around, talking to them, asking them questions."

Myers-Schleif, who also teaches social studies at McKinley, says his students really take his teaching to heart when they get to talk to the men who experienced the history they learn about -- first hand.

"When they can have a conversation with someone who was actually there I think it becomes so much more meaningful to them. Over the years we see kids with a very intense look as they speak to someone with direct experience."

He adds the Youth Service Project is perfect for the type of school McKinley is.

"This is an alternative school, so our administration gives us the flexibility to go into the community and do cool stuff. And I look for students who want to step outside their comfort zone and try something new."

The students go out to the VA around 15 times a year. They make crafts with them, bowl with them talk with them and spend time with them, learning about their experiences.

Both Lyerly and Myers-Schleif say not only do current students usually stick with it throughout the year, but old students return to share their stories and help. They also find their old students often go to work in the VA system after high school.

More From AM 1240 WJON