This past April 22nd was no ordinary Earth Day for students at Danville High School in eastern Illinois.  With permission from school officials, members of the Tostan Club, a student organization at the high school, dedicated a courtyard in the school to Tostan and planted a flowering cherry tree in honor of Molly Melching, 1967 graduate of Danville High School and Founder and Executive Director of Tostan.
The Tostan Club was formed at the school in 2007 and aims to give students a broader perspective of global issues, in addition to coordinating fundraisers to support Tostan’s programs in Africa. Composed of between 15 and 50 enthusiastic students, the group meets three times a month after school to discuss fundraising and event opportunities, and has previously coordinated a fundraising dinner and school-wide assembly for which Molly was the keynote speaker.
Ted Houpt, faculty member and club advisor, said that the group will be responsible for taking care of the courtyard and plans to eventually add a few benches, some flowers, and a plaque about Molly and Tostan’s work. Thinking of the long-term impact of this new space, Houpt acknowledged that this courtyard will serve not only as a beautiful space for the students, but also as a visual source of inspiration.
“We hope that the tree and courtyard will be a reminder to the students that they are capable of making a difference in the world like Molly,” explained Houpt. “There’s so much to do and so many places to go if you dream big. We want DHS students to seek a meaningful life and see where that takes them.”    
Students have kept in touch with Molly since her visit to the school two years ago, and hope the club will become even more involved in Tostan’s work in the coming school year. Houpt says that the students are inspired by the work of Tostan and Molly. “They are proud of Molly’s contributions to the fight for human rights and in particular to the fight for all young girls and women so that they might dream big as well.”