By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Southborough – While most students scramble out of school Friday afternoons, five Student Council members at Trottier Middle School are meeting to plan fundraisers for cancer causes. They belong to a United Way Youth Venture team known as Cancer Understanding Recreational Events (CURE).
The team started last school year with four students: Jen Fox and Katherine Harvey, now eighth-graders; and Andrew Michalik and Laura Shi, now seventh-graders. Recently joining them is sixth-grader Morgan Barlin. Faculty advisors are Paul Basta and Tom St. Pierre.
“This is such a motivated group of student leaders,” Basta said. “They actually kept in touch last summer without an advisor, planning what they could do in the fall.”
When the team formed in 2011, they chose to raise awareness and funds for neuroblastoma cancer. Specifically, the funds would help a young girl, Malia Dakota Jusczyk, whose family is friends with a teacher at Trottier School.
Next, the students decided to name the team with an acronym that would be catchy and easily remembered, and they became known as CURE.
After CURE developed an action plan, they proposed their ideas to a panel of community leaders assembled by the United Way. The panel approved their ideas and the team received $500 in seed funding. They received another $500 this school year.
Their fundraising efforts began last year with a pizza-making competition in February, followed by a film festival in May. At each event, they educated other students about neuroblastoma cancer by delivering speeches and distributing literature.
The students said the experience of organizing fundraisers is teaching them how to cooperate with other team members. They also acknowledged that their events have been more successful than they anticipated.
Basta is less surprised by their accomplishments.
“They'se seen success in everything they'se done so far because they work hard,” he said. “They'se taken on so much more responsibility than I'se seen students take in middle school.”
CURE used only about $300 of the seed money toward expenses and the rest has been kept in a fund to continue with future events. The team donated about $1,500 to help Malia.
While meeting last summer, the students were happy to hear Malia was declared cancer-free. Yet their mission to educate others continued when they returned to school this past fall. CURE participated in the annual Southborough Heritage Day Celebration, offering guests information about cancer at a booth on St. Mark's School field.
“They opened up their booth before anybody else did,” Basta said. “They were there at 7 o'slock in the morning and were all set before I could even get there. They'se a very dedicated and unique group.”
CURE already had their next fundraiser planned, a 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament held Jan. 15 and 18, when they realized they could help an additional charitable cause, Basta explained.
“We got news that a ninth-grade student at Algonquin, who was a student at Trottier last year and played basketball here, has leukemia,” he said. “It made sense to donate the money we raised however her family wished.”
The team's most recent fundraiser benefitted St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
CURE is now working toward a new fundraiser, a cupcake-decorating competition in March. They'se also planning to hold their second annual film festival in May.
Among the goals Youth Venture teams aim to achieve are for them to develop entrepreneurial skills and create positive change in their community.
“They'se doing an excellent job,” Basta said of CURE. “They'se getting good at setting up events, making sure they run well, and finding new ways to get the word out about various cancers – which is tough to do.”