Snack Shak: Transforming Teens Into Leaders

BY Susan Brown | 10-18-2017

fish.jpgWhen Dyron Howell first suggested that my FISH (Friends in Service for Hunger) Club students pilot and facilitate a secondary Snack Shak program at Tascosa High School, my kids and I immediately said, “Yes.”

But there were so many things I didn’t know. Where will we find space? How will we pay for it? Will teachers and administrators be supportive? Will our kids even want it?

We are now in our fifth year so, obviously, these uncertainties have long been resolved.

But, the focus of this story is about the most important thing I didn’t know. In fact, it’s about something that never even crossed my mind.

I said yes to Snack Shak because I knew it was a way to feed Tascosa kids on the weekends and remove a barrier to learning. Period. I didn’t think much beyond that.

I never expected to be so profoundly impacted by the transformations I’ve witnessed in the students who take the lead in this endeavor.

As with any new program, we stumbled, learned from our mistakes, adjusted, and worked to make our program as efficient as possible. But the change I’m talking about is much deeper.

Each year, my newcomers — mostly freshmen and sophomores — grow from insecure, shy, not-too-sure-of-themselves rookies to take-charge, confident, competent leaders. It becomes their program, their priority, their “baby.” My co-sponsor and I are mostly just the token adults in the room.

I’ve changed, too. It wasn’t easy for me to turn over such responsibilities to our student leaders. I’m a teacher, so, by nature, I’m a control freak. The doubts and what-ifs of allowing these teens to take on so much on their own worried me. But I’ve learned that empowering students and turning them loose to make decisions and make mistakes is a compelling thing.

They don’t wait for directions anymore; they organize themselves into teams, work collaboratively with people they barely know, and step up when obstacles mount.

They’re recognizing strengths and skills within themselves that they didn’t even know they had. To see them pack is to witness pure, natural synergy. They are truly greater than the sum of all their parts.

These developing skills will, no doubt, serve them well in college and the professional world.  But, there’s more.

There’s a deeper conversion taking place in these kids. Snack Shak has given them a taste of something greater than themselves, and they leave Tascosa hungry for more.

Several of our graduates are continuing their work at their universities. One recently presented the idea of a Snack Shak in the Austin area to her honors college at the University of Texas. Her group was awarded start-up money, which has recently been matched, and plans are being carefully developed.

Another, now in her second year at Southern Methodist University, is a project leader working with a similar program in Dallas. I recently spoke to another former student who has a plan working at Western Kentucky.

Snack Shak gives students an opportunity to lead and serve others, and that’s a powerful thing. They are thinking beyond themselves. They’re noticing people in need, and they are responding. And, most importantly, they are leaving Tascosa with the self-assurance and conviction that they can truly make a difference in this world. 


Susan Brown teaches AP World History at Tascosa High School and co-sponsors a student service organization, FISH (Friends in Service for Hunger) Club. Tascosa has approximately 2,300 kids and is considered the most ethnically and economically diverse campus in Amarillo.

Members of FISH Club facilitate Tascosa’s Snack Shak program. Currently, they pack and deliver approximately 40 bags per week. In addition, they regularly volunteer at various local community service agencies.

Help kids in your community develop leadership skills and make an impact at their high school. Find out how to start a Snack Shak in your school.

START A SNACK SHAK

Topics: Education, Snack Shak