TNT members create a more positive environment at Fillmore Central. In front, from left, are adviser Becky Mueller, Deja Lind, Alex Lange, Bethany Zrucky, Kaitlyn Aug, Andrew Coyle, Matt Guttormson, Nick Ebner and Nick Powell. In the second row are Keeley Todd, Sarah Reicks, Lexie Dols, Shelby Ebner, Sara Schultz, Gabrielle Shupe and Sydnie Huffman. Not shown is Tomi Stone.  PHOTO BY JONI MEHUS
TNT members create a more positive environment at Fillmore Central. In front, from left, are adviser Becky Mueller, Deja Lind, Alex Lange, Bethany Zrucky, Kaitlyn Aug, Andrew Coyle, Matt Guttormson, Nick Ebner and Nick Powell. In the second row are Keeley Todd, Sarah Reicks, Lexie Dols, Shelby Ebner, Sara Schultz, Gabrielle Shupe and Sydnie Huffman. Not shown is Tomi Stone. PHOTO BY JONI MEHUS
It would seem that in a small school there would be a strong interconnected network for social support. However, this isn't always the case. Students at Fillmore Central High School have recognized the need for peer counseling and have used the Teens Nurturing Teens (TNT) program to provide listening ears and understanding minds to the student body.

TNT is a student-run organization at Fillmore Central with 16 members representing all four high school grades. Their advisor, mathematics teacher Becky Mueller, assists the group throughout the year in their fundraising, mentoring and leadership training activities.

Members are usually selected their freshman year and stay on through their senior year. The selection process begins at the beginning of the school year, when the freshman class learns about the organization from junior TNT representatives.

From there, interested students fill out an application with questions addressing their experiences with counseling, leadership skills, and an overall desire to help people. These applications, along with a student vote and staff consideration, help determine who is selected to be a member of the TNT program.

"It takes compassionate people and people who are passionate at wanting to do better," shared Mueller. She explained the students who are involved in TNT are willing to help someone out at the sacrifice of their own personal agenda.

"They are people who are looking to help others," she added.

For freshman TNT member Lexie Dols, she wanted to be a part of something that helps her school become better. This was part of her motivation to become a member. "There are supportive aspects of it that make a positive environment. We can be friends to everybody," she said.

Organization president Nick Ebner explained that members are there for students who need to get things off of their chest.

The group is always trying to help people realize they can come to anyone in TNT and ask for help. They have several posters hanging up around the school broadcasting this message and they regularly include messages in the school's newspaper and radio show.

"They have to know they can be comfortable and can trust us," shared Ebner.

He noted that people usually find someone in their own grade, or a member who they already know pretty well. Dols mentioned that as a freshman, people still haven't become comfortable with going to her yet, though she hopes in coming years they will.

Senior member Andy Coyle shared people have felt comfortable coming up to him. "Quite a few people come up to talk to me. It feels good to help people," he said.

TNT members provide peer counseling, but it's not always just talking to an individual. Ebner explained he has been working with three individuals and has been tutoring two of them. "Sometimes we just hang out and play a game. There isn't a set schedule to meet people as well," he said. He also stated that many people usually only need to have a one-time conversation in order to feel better.

Knowing what to say and do is something that comes more naturally to TNT individuals, but they also go through an annual leadership training retreat during the fall months. The training is usually held at the next door Greenfield Lutheran Church. It helps the members get to know each other better, teaches them how to handle and react to certain situations, and helps them become better leaders.

"Being a leader is stressful, but in a good way," shared member Matt Guttormson.

The members are also responsible for raising money for their group and other various causes. They hold hoop shoots during the halftimes of home basketball games and donate the money raised towards a local family in need. They also organize activities in school such as "penny wars," which helps raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

This year, they tried a new fundraiser selling candy canes in a candy gram activity during the Christmas season. They also are in charge of an annual Christmas card exchange, which allows students to give each other cards for the holidays.

Perhaps their most popular, however, is their cookie and carnation fundraiser during Valentine's Day which allows students and faculty the chance to buy a brightly colored, frosted cookie or a carnation for another person. The group also sends cards to students who are sick and to families dealing with the loss of a loved one.

In this way, Fillmore Central reaches out to the students and the community.

Member Deja Lind explained, "If we are nice here, it will pass on to the community. Smiles are contagious."