By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Westborough- Abigail McLucas and Elizabeth Hopkinson, both students at Westborough High School, are on a mission to empower students of all ages with their passion for community service and leadership.
There are currently more than 100 students actively looking for opportunities so they are spreading the word to try to help connect students find a niche with service in the community and beyond.
According to Hopkinson, Connor Schoen, now a freshman at Harvard University, started the Service Learning Initiative (SLI) last year.
“The three of us are Project 351 members, which is a statewide youth service organization,” she explained. “As eighth-graders, members are selected from town in a year of service and leadership. We were selected by Principal Jack Foley and our guidance counselors. The focus is on unsung heroes, quiet leaders and those who have shown commitment for growth.”
Project 351 got its name from the number of cities and towns in the state of Massachusetts. As an ambassador, the students partake in a year of service, leadership, workshops and service projects, which are the most important focus.
“There are two big events that take place during the year and one of them took place this past weekend. It’s called “Launch Day” which is a day of celebration and the day we kick off with the new class. It’s typically in Boston at Faneuil Hall or the JFK Library and held over the Dr. Martin Luther King weekend,” said McLucas.
The girls applied to be part of the Alumni Leadership panel so they could continue with Project 351 in a mentorship capacity. It’s run as a council and typically there is one alumnus to 10 current ambassadors.
“This year we were honored to reach our 3,000th ambassador in the last eight years,” said McLucas.
“This is such a phenomenal organization that empowers students to give them the tools to serve. To have someone tell you, as an eighth-grader, that you can make a difference is so powerful. To encourage you to believe in yourself and be a ‘change-maker’ is fantastic,” said Hopkinson.
The girls are hoping to take that spirit and make it accessible to all. They know the importance of taking what they have learned and make connections in all of the schools to reach the students in Westborough. The SLI enables them to work with Service Council and Student Council groups at the schools and go into the classrooms and talk about kindness, what service is and why it’s important. They want the students to know that they have a voice and they can actually make positive changes through humility, gratitude, kindness and more.
“Community service is not just about running a clothing drive but of acts of kindness during the day and being grateful. We challenge them to partake in three acts of kindness each day and ways that they can thank a teacher. We want kids to grow into service as leaders. These kids are incredible and passionate,” said McLucas.
The administrators and teachers have been most supportive and allow for students to meet during lunch and other times. They put much care and support in helping to recognize service and leadership.
“We are so lucky to be in a district where leadership and character are recognized as being just as important as math or reading. We are grateful to have the support of the teachers throughout the schools. There is power that comes with service and leadership,” said Hopkinson.
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