Mill Pond students donate $7,500 to Westborough Connects


Mill Pond students donate $7,500 to Westborough Connects
On June 20, Westborough Connects received a $7,500 donation from Team Wonder, a cohort of three sixth-grade classes at Mill Pond Elementary School. (Photo/Courtesy)

WESTBOROUGH – Westborough Connects has announced that it has received a $7,500 donation from Team Wonder – a cohort of three sixth-grade classes at Mill Pond Elementary School led by the teaching team of Stephanie Garrett, Lynn Thompson, Dawn Stiles, Kate Haywood, Caitlin Boissonneault and Liz Henriques.

The donation was directed for use to support community-based programming related to substance use prevention and education in Westborough.

Garrett, a 22-year veteran teacher at Mill Pond, challenged the team of nearly 70 students to do something to “make the world a better place.” At the June 20 ceremony to announce the donation, Garrett told the students, “Well, you’ve done it.”

Through a multidisciplinary project-based learning assignment, students were tasked with planning, managing and executing multiple phases of the project, including a “Shark Tank” event where parents and caregivers served as “sharks.” They listened to students pitch their innovations, deciding which ones to “invest in.”

The students also planned a schoolwide fair, selling homemade goods and treats, with opportunities for students to learn about event planning, marketing, logistics and sales. Philanthropy and leadership were also critical skills honed for this project.

Throughout the monthslong project, students researched various topics and causes to determine where they would direct the money they were raising along the way. Ultimately, the classes agreed that, given the epidemic of substance use in today’s society, they wanted their funds to go toward education and prevention for future generations and the local community.

Team Wonder chose Westborough Connects because of its experience with community programming, particularly related to substance use, as well as its local focus.

Since 2019, Westborough Connects has been offering free community programming on a variety of topics that are central to its mission of helping to build a thriving, kind and connected community where everybody belongs.

Kelley Petralia, executive director, told Team Wonder students, “Part of our mission is to respond to the wants and needs of the community. You are the community. You have given us a directive on what the wants and needs are from your perspective. So, we’re here to serve those needs.”

Often in collaboration with others, such as local groups and town departments, Westborough Connects seeks to connect residents to important resources and to each other.

One such collaboration is called Square One – a program planning team composed of the Rotary Club of Westborough, Westborough Youth & Family Services, Westborough Public Library, Westborough Public Schools and Westborough Connects. Since 2019, the Square One team has focused on resources and programs designed to support community education and resilience around substance use and mental health. Programs have included education on topics such as substance use and youth brain development; a community conversation on vaping; and Spring into Wellness, a mental health and wellness resource fair held in May 2023.

Westborough Connects will use the donated funds to support its efforts as part of the Square One team.

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