By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Region – More than 400 eighth-grade ambassadors from across the state filled the State House Jan. 18 to participate in Project 351, a public service initiative launched by Governor Deval Patrick in 2010. Project 351 celebrates the ethic of service, youth leadership, and the power of community to uplift and unite while promoting the values of kindness, compassion, commitment, humility, and generosity of spirit.
Eighth-grade ambassadors from cities and towns across the commonwealth were nominated by teachers in their school system for their leadership potential, exemplary service, and embodiment of compassion, commitment, humility and kindness.
Local participants were Elizabeth Hopkinson, Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School (Westborough); Meagan Campbell, Oak Middle School (Shrewsbury); Allison Berardi, Robert E. Melican Middle School (Northborough); Joseph Gough, 1LT Charles W. Whitcomb Middle School (Marlborough); Elizabeth Billings, Quinn Middle School (Hudson); and Dylan Logan, Trottier Middle School (Southborough).
The morning began with Patrick hosting a Youth Town Meeting at the Statehouse. Following the meeting, the governor joined student ambassadors for an afternoon of service at seven nonprofit and educational organizations across Boston: The Pine Street Inn, Greater Boston Food Bank, Cradles to Crayons, Orchard Gardens Boys & Girls Club, Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School, Vine Street Community Center, and Mason Elementary School.
“I welcome Project 351 ambassadors from across the commonwealth to unite in the spirit of service,” Governor Patrick said in a press release. “Our young people have unlimited potential to create positive change across our commonwealth, our nation and our world. Project 351 recognizes that while providing a wonderful opportunity to inspire, challenge, and motivate our next generation of leaders to give back and make a significant impact in our community.”
As her Project 351 afternoon service project, Gibbons Middle School Student Council Vice President Elizabeth Hopkinson helped paint the cafeteria at Mason Elementary School and made school supply kits.
“The best part of Project 351 was meeting like-minded people and getting to serve with them,” said Hopkinson. “I met lots of new friends and I was encouraged to do more community service work in the future.”
For Dylan Logan, the highlight of the day was meeting Patrick. The Trottier Middle School eighth-grader helped paint the walls at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School and made inspirational cards for the students.
“I am currently involved with different community service projects. I do tours for the school, trash pick-up, and put together care packages for the troops,” Logan said. “Participating in Project 351 encouraged me to want to check out the service board at school and do more.”
Logan will be participating in “Spring Greening,” a service partnership between Project 351 and Cradles to Crayons that teaches leadership skills while giving back to the thousands of children facing unfortunate economic challenges. Cradles to Crayons is a nonprofit organization that “provides children from birth through age 12 living in homeless or low-income situations with the essentials they need to thrive.”
Project 351 encourages the student ambassadors to “unite, act, and lead” not just on the service day, but throughout the year. As part of the initiative, students participate in a yearlong engagement of service and leadership that will both challenge and enrich them, and provide a platform to make a difference in their community.