Get Informed/History

The Founding: September 18, 2003.

DC ProjectFour college freshmen were up late, eating Top Ramen and Easy Mac. They were chatting and sharing about their lives and how they could make a difference, but most importantly--they were dreaming. That night, STLF and the Pay it Forward Tour was born. Nearly each night after that, the students would meet in the early hours of the morning, brainstorming what a perfect world would be like--wouldn't it be awesome if stereotypes didn't exist? Wouldn't it be great if people believed in young people? Would it be cool to go on a cross-country road trip? And do service over spring break?

These teenagers set out to make a difference. And they have. Not alone, but through the commitment, support, and dedication of thousands of people. Never underestimate... anyone.

Growth through Student Initiative.

The growth of STLF has been driven by the expansion of the Pay It Forward Tour program, and has been made possible through college student volunteer leadership working collectively in STLF’s self-created leadership model – the Core Model.  The Pay It Forward Tour is a dynamic, multi-day program focused on service, education, and reflection, during which groups of students travel the country and volunteer in a new city each day.  Through Pay It Forward Tours and more, STLF now serves thousands of college, high school, and middle school students of varying demographics by providing opportunities in service and leadership.

STLF Firsts and Milestones:

Among countless days to celebrate, here are a few of the big ones:

  • September 18, 2003 – STLF is born.
  • October 17, 2003 – STLF officially a student organization at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
  • March 12-19, 2004 – First STLF Pay it Forward Tour out of University of Minnesota Twin Cities. 
  • May 2, 2005 – STLF officially incorporated as a non-profit.
  • March 29, 2006 – STLF receives 501(c)(3) status as a tax exempt non-profit.
  • March 29-April 2, 2006 – First STLF High School Pay it Forward Tour out of West Fargo High School.
  • June 25-30, 2006 – First STLF High School Leadership Camp at the University of Minnesota Crookston.
  • December 1, 2006 – First STLF Board of Directors Meeting, and First STLF gala.
  • February 11, 2007 – Everything Intangible, STLF’s Pay it Forward Tour documentary World Premiere shows in North Dakota, downtown at the Fargo Theatre.
  • September 1, 2007 – First STLF full time staff positions start.
  • September 20-September 22, 2007 – First STLF Middle School Pay It Forward our out of Carl Ben Eielson Middle School.
  • October 12, 2007 – First STLF Annual Event Held.
  • December 12, 2007 – Received first grant from Social Venture Partners.
  • June 5, 2008 – Recipient of the Social Entrepreneur Cup of Minnesota.
  • February 12, 2009 – 100th Pay It Forward Tour leaves from Elgin, IL.
  • June 2009 – Student staff program begins.
  • January 2010 – Launched our Co-Executive Director succession model.
  • March 12, 2010 –200th Pay it Forward Tour leaves from Norman, OK.
  • March 4, 2011 –10,000th participant ever, Illinois State University Pay it Forward Tour.
  • June 2011 –300th Pay it Forward Tour leaves.


"Changing the world since 2003..."


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12.14

My Story - Sam Finch

Sam discusses his first time going on a Pay-It-Forward tour and much much more!

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