By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – Project Friend, sponsored by Southborough Youth and Family Services, originated in the early 1980s as an opportunity for students at Algonquin Regional High School to gain community service experience through the school’s Community Action Program. The volunteer-staffed program pairs students from Algonquin with those from Woodward and Neary schools to create unique friendships.
The Algonquin students, called “big friends” are chosen through an application and interview process and then matched with their “little friends.”
“What we’re looking for is someone who can be a positive role model and who possesses characteristics that will make them a good mentor and friend to a little friend,” said graduate intern Meaghan McCarthy. “We need to make sure that our big friends are dedicated, because it is a big commitment to make. Our little friends can be any Southborough resident in second through fifth grade enrolled in Southborough Public Schools.”
Project Friend meets weekly in the afternoon or evening and participants may choose to participate for the full school year or half.
The time spent at Project Friend is unstructured. Friend pairs are offered a variety of activities to choose from: arts and crafts, games, time outside and gross motor activities, to name a few.
“Our goal for Project Friend is for the participants to form a special friendship with each other. We want them to be unplugged, enjoy conversations, and find support in each other’s relationships,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy, a 2005 graduate of Marlborough High School and a student in the master’s program in counseling psychology at Framingham State College, hopes that Project Friend offers an opportunity for all participants to learn and grow.
“Our goal specifically for the big friends is to have them develop some skills in working with children, achieve some catharsis from very hectic lives by enjoying time spent with a child, and enhance their self-esteem as they are often so important to their little friend,” McCarthy said. “For little friends, we hope that the influence of a positive role model and some special attention just for them will afford them increased confidence and self-esteem as well as find some catharsis by taking time to enjoy simple activities and conversations.”
“We are looking for more participants on both sides. Anyone who wants to participate could reach out to me and let me know if they’re interested in the program. Even though it starts this Thursday we’d be more than happy to consider Big and Little friends who are interested in joining at any point during the year,” she added. “Although we can’t guarantee a spot because we might not have the right match, we’d encourage anyone who’s considering it to inquire so we can see if we can find them a spot.”
For more information on Project Friend call McCarthy at 508-481-5676, ext. 3 or [email protected].