Students Making a Difference: Friendship through Ping Pong

WINONA, Minn. — Two Winona Senior High School students are making a difference in their community by helping to build relationships between generations.

Shane Matthews and Tyler Kowalewski volunteer four days a week for two hours each day at the Winona Senior Friendship Center, a recreational facility for people 55 and older.

The two do everything from playing ping pong and doing Tai Chi, to helping some of the seniors with their computer skills.

Their volunteering is actually a part of a service learning class, but both students say it’s turned into much more for them.

“As we started doing it, I guess he realized that it’s not just a class,” Kowalewski says. You learn a lot from the people. Once you start helping people and you realize you’re actually making a difference, you actually feel a lot better.”

“We really didn’t think we could make that much of a difference on someone’s life until we came here and they’ve kind of showed us,” Matthews says. “We don’t feel like we’re making that big of a difference, but then they come back to us and say ‘hey, you are,’ and it makes us feel a lot better.”


The two young men have made quite an impact on the seniors, too. They’ve become regular fill-ins on a ping-pong team at the center.

“I’ts been so much fun,” says Shirley Holst, who goes to the center. “I’m going to miss ’em.  I hope they’re going to stay around for awhile yet.  I don’t know if they’re about done with their volunteering or not, but they’ve just been great and they’ve really improved a lot since the beginning, so it’s really been great.”

Both students say they hope to continue volunteering after their service learning class is over.