Organization founded at the U grows to Midwest nonprofit

Centennial Hall representative Jake Gau plays bass guitar in the talent round of the Mr. Superblock fashion show in Coffman Theater on Tuesday.

Tony Morimoto

Centennial Hall representative Jake Gau plays bass guitar in the talent round of the Mr. Superblock fashion show in Coffman Theater on Tuesday.

Jacob GauâÄôs attire Tuesday night âÄî his grandfatherâÄôs plaid two-piece suit, a top hat and a cane âÄî wasnâÄôt his typical garb. But the student group for which he wore the outfit isnâÄôt typical either. Gau, a first-year psychology student, planned his outfit for âÄúMr. Superblock,âÄù a male parody beauty pageant, which took place Tuesday night. The sixth-annual event was sponsored by Students Today Leaders Forever , a student group founded by four University of Minnesota students. Four years after its inception, STLF is now a nonprofit organization with 16 college chapters across the Midwest. Brian Peterson, one of the founders, graduated from the University in May 2007 and is now employed full-time with STLF as a co-executive director and director of operations and finance. He said he and three other first-year students were talking one night after getting to college about wanting to make a spring break trip available that provided an opportunity for leadership and service. The idea for the organization was born and Peterson said the group then started STLF and the Pay It Forward Tour , which allows students to do service projects in several cities during spring break. After a successful start on campus, STLF became a nonprofit organization in 2005, Peterson said. âÄúWe were just sophomores in college,âÄù he said. âÄúWe didnâÄôt know much about starting up an organization, but we just asked around.âÄù As the organization continues to grow, however, technology becomes a challenge, Peterson said. STLF is based out of a north Minneapolis office and keeps tabs on chapters across the Midwest. They hope to do the same across the country in the future. Although chapters have formed in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and Ohio, the starter chapter at the University is the most active, Peterson said. Elementary education first-year Rachel Roth helped plan this yearâÄôs âÄúMr. SuperblockâÄù event and said the ticket money proceeds from the event will go to scholarships for students who may not be able to afford the cost of the Pay It Forward Tour trip this spring. Pageants often get a bad rap for being demeaning, Roth said, but this one is different. âÄúWhat we have the judges looking for is who has the most confidence and who is having the most fun,âÄù she said. Contestants participated in four rounds, including evening wear, swimwear, talent portion and a mystery round. Biochemistry first-year David Droullard wore flippers, a snorkel, a diving mask, orange inflatable water wings and a Speedo for the swimwear competition. He said his residence hall Community Advisor encouraged him to participate and he is glad to help raise money for the Pay It Forward Tour. Gau said a little peer pressure and giving people a reason to laugh got him to participate. âÄúI have all of these goofy outfits,âÄù he said. âÄúSo, I think it will be good to get them out and use them.âÄù