PENDLETON — The ASTRA Club of Pendleton was recently recognized during the Altrusa International Convention held July 17-20 in Reno. Sponsored by local Altrusa groups, ASTRA clubs are volunteer organizations for young people — including middle school, high school and college age students — that encourage community involvement and leadership opportunities.

The club, which is affiliated with Altrusa International of Pendleton, received a first place international award for their Lunch Buddies service project. The mentoring program involves Pendleton High School ASTRA members who spend time talking and eating lunch with Washington Elementary School students. The project takes place each Tuesday from October through May during the school year.

“There are over 90 ASTRA clubs around the world, so having the Pendleton ASTRA club be selected as the first-place recipient for the International ASTRA Service Award was a huge surprise and honor,” said Terri Taber, Altrusa ASTRA chair of the Pendleton club.

This is the first year for the award at the Altrusa International Convention. It was established to encourage ASTRA clubs to actively participate in service projects designed to meet specific needs in their local communities and schools. In addition to a certificate from Altrusa International and the Altrusa International Foundation, the recognition came with a $300 check.

The goal of Lunch Buddies is to provide positive role models for younger students. Freshman Caleb Picken, the ASTRA club vice president, authored the winning service award application for the club.

“We want them to talk about whatever they have a need to talk about,” Picken said. “In the long term, we want to influence younger kids to be their best selves, to stay in school and work hard in school, to improve their self-image and confidence, and to always be kind to others.”

While the project touches the lives of elementary students involved, it also benefits the high school ASTRA members. It provides an opportunity for them to reach out to younger students in a significant way.

PHS graduate Clancy Deutz began the Lunch Buddies program when she was the ASTRA president in 2015. She worked with Altrusan ASTRA chair Debbie McBee and school administrators to create the program.

Deutz was overjoyed to hear about the recognition the program received. Lunch Buddies, she said, was one of her favorite high school memories because of the good example they could set for the younger children and the fun time they had doing it.

The ASTRA Club of Pendleton was started in 2005 by McBee and fellow Altrusans. McBee has volunteered with the PHS ASTRA club for the past 14 years and was recently selected as the Altrusa International ASTRA Committee chairman for the upcoming biennium.

The Pendleton ASTRA Club president for 2019-20 is Jenna Harrison. The group meets twice a month throughout the school year. For more information, contact Taber at tjtaber50@gmail.com.

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