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Shelby Jasper: Helping Around the World, and at Home

18-year-old Shelby Jasper is the business manager for the yearbook at Stockton High School. On this day, although the halls are empty and school is out for the summer, she and three other classmates are still hard at work.She’s the graduating valedictorian, with a shiny new medal and a 4.16 grade point average to show for it. But shining even more brightly than her valedictorian medal is her service to her community and the world.One person who has observed Shelby over the years is National Honor Society faculty sponsor Jon Nail, who also teaches English at Stockton."Shelby is unique because she not only gets it, but she gets it an does something about it. She is extremely organized, and she can multi-task like nobody's business," Nail says.Shelby says she was inspired by a man named Greg Mortenson when she read his book, “Three Cups of Tea.” Mortenson was an American hiker who failed in his attempt to climb the K-2 summit in Pakistan. He got lost and spent several weeks with a Balti tribal community in rural Pakistan, which had no school.Mortensen promised to return and build a school there, which he did. He then raised money for a string of other schools in south Asia. And that’s where Shelby Jasper comes in.She organized a local effort for Mortenson’s program “Pennies for Peace.”"It's mostly for schoolchildren, because it's pennes. So they can bring in just change, and it helps raise money. We raised about $250 last year. It's to help schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and mostly girls' schools," she says.

She says she knows every bit of money raised here is changing lives in South Asia and the Middle East. "It's really helped, actually, with educating the women. It helps them have higher birth rates and less disease," she says.

For this teenager, it doesn’t matter what passport someone holds; if there’s a mouth that needs to be fed, or a child who needs to be educated, she wants to help."We never know when the tables could turn, and we'd always want help from other people. You need to think about, how would you feel if you saw someone who couldn't feed themselves--would you want help them? And I'd hope that they would. And just because you're not surrounded by it every day does mean it’s not out there," she says.She says she’d like to visit Afghanistan one day to hike its rolling mountains and shop for silk in its covered markets. But she hasn’t just devoted her attention to the needy in developing nations; she’s hard at work making a difference here in the Ozarks, too. She was the community service chair in the Student Council.She’s volunteered at The Kitchen in Springfield, and gone on food drives for the hungry. She says that opened her eyes to the fact that even the needy are often generous."We’ve had people who I’d think, 'Oh they probably won’t give.' Then we walk up the stairs, and they say, 'Oh, surely I can scrounge up a can or two.' And they’ll go in and look in their kitchen and they barely have any food, but they’ll give two cans. And that's just amazing, because that could feed them for two days," she says.Shelby says her church had a “job jar,” where the elderly could drop in their requests for odd-jobs they needed done around the house, and the young would go to work on them."Raking leaves was always popular. We did one where we painted a house…not very well, but we did paint it. It looked better than it started," she recalls.

Shelby Jasper is headed to the University of Missouri-Columbia this fall. She aspires to eventually work for a non-profit organization, travel, and raise money for people in developing countries. She also knows whether she’s living in Stockton, Missouri, or Peshawar, Pakistan one day, she’ll try to leave her community better than she found it.For KSMU’s Sense of Community Series, I’m Jennifer Moore.