By Kim Ukura |

Morris — When Morris Area students graduate, they have a range of opportunities ahead of them. But each will have the chance to use their skills to impact people around the world.

Last month, 2001 graduate Nic Lesmeister spoke to students at Morris Area High School about his non-traditional career path, encouraging them to use their skills and talents to make a change in the world.

“I’m not talking about like going out and becoming a priest, I’m talking about doing what you’re passionate about doing when you graduate high school and using the time that you have, the talent that you have and the resources that you have, to make a change in the world,” said Lesmeister.

One of Lesmeister’s most recent projects is helping found and run a primary school for a village in Ethiopia. This month, Morris Area students will be fundraising to help support the project.

When Lesmeister graduated from MAHS in 2001, he went on to earn a bachelors of science in economics and associates degree in ministerial studies. After working for the Dallas Mavericks and spending time doing service projects abroad, among other pursuits, Lesmeister and a partner started a couple of businesses, including a website for stock market tips and tricks.

“I felt like I’d finally arrived,” said Lesmeister. “All of the American Dream things that were fed to me by the media — I could go out and buy a house, I could buy a boat if I wanted to, a dog, I could have 1.5 kids — and life would be set for me for the rest of time. But I had this itch, on the inside of me, that I could do something a little bit more than about myself.”

One challenge Lesmeister discovered while traveling abroad is that there wasn’t much financial or logistical support for young people who wanted to do Christian mission trips.

Working with his partners, Lesmeister sought to help address those problems with the founding of Modern Day ( The organization helps young people travel throughout the world on by equipping missionaries and facilitating their needs on projects.

Right now, Modern Day has more than 150 field workers across the globe working on everything from rescuing children from sex trafficking in Brazil to teaching sustainable agriculture in Uganda, Lesmeister said.

“This was just an idea that me and two people had sitting around in a living room one night — we’re really grateful to God that he’s given us an opportunity to help people around the world,” Lesmeister said.

In 2011, Lesmeister took a trip to Ethiopia to look into some potential service project and fell in love with the country. Most Ethiopians life on about $470 per year, making it the tenth poorest country in the world.

One tool for helping lift people out of poverty is education, but most children in Ethiopia don’t have a chance to get into elementary school because they don’t have access to primary school education.

Lesmeister and his business partner began working with members of a village in Ethiopia to start a school, Yewoinzer Academy, which opened in 2013.

Yewoinzer Academy currently serves about 180 children in kindergarten through third grade, who attend school five days per week for about six months of the year.

With volunteer teachers, it costs about $30 per year per student. This year, when they plan to start paying teachers, the cost will increase to $45 per year, Lesmeister said.

“What it costs for someone to go out and feed their family at a sit down restaurant like Chili’s or Applebees, you can put a kid through school for an entire year,” said Lesmeister.

“It’s a very humbling experience to know that such a small amount of money is able to do so much for these kids.”

Morris Area students will be doing fundraising for Yewoinzer Academy this month by bringing back the Mr. Tiger competition.

The Mr. Tiger “mangeant” will be held on Monday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

The juniors and seniors can sign up to compete in pairs and will begin their fundraising on Friday, March 13 and have until the Mr. Tiger event on March 23 to collect money. All money raised will be donated to Yewoinzer Academy in Ethiopia, and Lesmeister and his wife Tabitha will match whatever funds the students raise up to $5,000.

There will be a $5 admission to Mr. Tiger on March 23, which will also be donated to the school. At the event, students will compete in four categories — talent, formal wear, swimwear and interview. The pair that raises the most money will be crowned Mr. and Miss Tiger.

Information about Yewoinzer Academy can be found online at

Source: Morris Sun Tribune


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