Westborough – In 2010, the Mill Pond School, home to Westborough's students in grades 4 through 6, was named a National School of Character. As the school wrapped up a year celebrating this important honor, it welcomed members of the community to a special Open House April 7.
The recognition by the Character Education Partnership, a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C., was given to only 13 schools and two districts in the country last year. The application process to be considered for such a designation was lengthy according to the school Principal Irene “Reene” Hatherley, but one that she said the entire staff was behind. Showcasing the school's hard work at the Open House was also an entire school wide effort, she added.
“It's really a credit to our staff – they always rise to the occasion and do it willingly,” she said. “They'se spent hours getting ready for this day. They take such pride in the school. I couldn's do it without them.”
As a National School of Character, the Mill Pond community stresses 10 “Keys to Success”: respect, responsibility, gratitude, generosity, tolerance, honesty, perseverance, conservation, caring and courage.
In the school, it is obvious that those keys permeate every area. Nowhere is this more apparent than talking to the members of the school's sixthgrade Student Council.
Unlike many other schools” councils, Mill Pond's members are not elected but rather can join by choice. As a result, there are 71 members. But with the amount of community service this school does, both in and out of school, that's a good thing.
At the Open House, many of the Student Council members spoke of projects that students have worked on over the past year.
One such ongoing program is volunteering at the Community Harvest Project in North Grafton. Each grade goes to the nonprofit farm and volunteers in a different capacity, helping to plant and harvest food that is then delivered to the Worcester County Food Bank.
The entire sixth grade also participated in the Heifer International Program at Overlook Farm in Rutland. Overlook Farm is a demonstration farm where kids can see first-hand the challenges, such as extreme poverty and hunger, that people in other parts of the world must face just for survival. The School Council members all agreed their participation at the farm had made them more aware of what other people around the world sometimes have to face and that it had made them more thankful for their own lives.
Other projects included collecting school supplies for a school in Worcester and making cards for war veterans and children who are patients in local hospitals.
The students also help those in or near their own town. Drives were held to collect food, clothes, winter coats and toys to benefit local organizations.
And when the Mill Pond School heard of the devastation in Japan after the recent tsunami, they wanted to reach out to students in that country as well. As a result, all proceeds from a future movie night at the school will be donated to the Red Cross for Japanese relief efforts.