By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – Northborough native Dan Campbell now of Hudson served as master of ceremonies for the 152nd annual meeting and volunteer recognition event of the YMCA of Central Massachusetts, held April 27 at the Boroughs Family Branch YMCA in Westborough. Now a third-grade teacher at Walter J. Paton Elementary School in Shrewsbury, he credits a longtime relationship with the Boroughs Y for inspiring his career choice.
“The Y is what made me become a teacher,” he said. “I never had any ambition to work with children until I volunteered and then worked at the Y. It was nice seeing the youth getting an award this year and hearing how the Y helped them in the way it helped me.”
Soon after the Boroughs Y opened in 2002, Campbell became involved with the branch while an eighth-grader at Robert E. Melican Middle School in Northborough. He and other students volunteered in a youth after-school program at the Y once a week.
“I learned a lot about volunteering and the mission of the Y,” he noted. “Besides that one day a week, I also helped coach the sports classes with 5- and 6-year-old kids. I had never worked with kids, so at the beginning it was a little intimidating.”
It didn’t take long for him to feel comfortable enough to volunteer for other Y events. In 2003, Campbell at age 13 was the first at the Boroughs Y to be named Youth of the Year. That year’s volunteer recognition event was a chance for him to share a special moment with family including his mother, who has since passed away.
“It was important seeing how excited they were for me,” he recalled. “At the time, I didn’t really understand the significance of getting the award. Reflecting back, now I’m grateful for everything that the Y did to help me.”
When Campbell turned 16, he began working evenings at the Y during the school year. He continued coaching various sports and added other responsibilities. In the summers, he worked as a camp counselor or director.
Campbell had a revelation the summer after graduating from Algonquin Regional High School in 2007. He followed through with his plan to apprentice with an electrician, but made alterations. For five months, he apprenticed with the electrician fulltime and worked three hours Saturdays at the Y.
“Those three hours were more meaningful to me,” he said. “I realized that I needed to do something with children.”
That summer he also took elementary education courses at Quinsigamond Community College. He stopped working as an electrician after the summer of 2008 and returned to the Y part-time. When the youth and teen director position became available at the branch, Campbell interviewed and was hired for the job at age 19.
“That experience gave me more of a relationship with the whole families, rather than only with the children,” he explained. “I learned a lot as I got into all the programming aspects and still had the joy of working with kids.”
Campbell transferred to Wheelock College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2013 and a master’s in special education 2014. In the fall of 2014, he began teaching at Paton School.
The recent MC stint wasn’t his first time publicly speaking at the Boroughs Y. At age 14, he spoke briefly at the branch’s one-year anniversary celebration. At age 18, he delivered a more detailed speech at a fundraiser about how volunteering and working at the Y contributed to redirecting his career path from electrician to teacher.
“Everyone who goes to the Y brings something different with them,” he said. “Everybody learns in a different way and the Y helps them achieve their goals.”