Image credit: Project 351, Flickr
by Andrew Dwyer, AmeriCorps member serving on the PTC team with Dearborn STEM Academy

Winter Flashback: While our Boston students are on February vacation, we are featuring a winter event that revealed the power of service to a new generation of young idealists.

On January 17, AmeriCorps members greeted 8th-grade students as they stepped off their buses onto Faneuil Hall. I quickly noticed the students’ eyes light up as they were relieved from their long trips on their buses, ready to enjoy the launch day of Project 351.

Project 351 is an organization created by Governor Deval Patrick in 2010 that “celebrates the power of young people as a force for positive change in their communities and in their commonwealth. Through service, leadership development, enrichment, and friendship with a statewide community of peers, [8th-grade student] Ambassadors build skills and confidence, explore issues, embrace leadership, and motivate a lifetime of service.” Once a year, teachers, educators, administrators, and principals nominate and select one 8th-grade student from each town in Massachusetts and neighborhood in Boston to take part in Project 351. Ambassadors are selected based on the ethic of service and values of kindness, compassion, and humility. Project 351 places a premium on unsung heroes and quiet leaders.

As the opening ceremony unfolded in Faneuil Hall, Charlie Rose, Vice President and Dean of City Year, Congressmen Seth Moulton, and several Project 351 alumni, offered words of inspiration and wisdom. As a true believer that our future depends on the power of young people, I could not help but feel inspired seeing all of these students sitting and listening intently. Seth Moulton let the amabassadors know to “always combat negativity with kindness... ...young people are the solution not the problem....always be resilient in everything you do.” The amount of enthusiasm I sensed from these 8th-graders paralleled the enthusiasm that I sense when our City Year Boston AmeriCorps members are united.

As the opening ceremony closed we gave students high fives as they boarded their buses to conduct service at either Brighton High School, Greater Boston Food Bank, Cradles to Crayons, Green Academy, Service Village, Mattapan Teen Center, or Schools on Wheels in Brockton. Service projected included: mural painting, creating activity packets for students, and preparing 20,646 meals for seniors, children, and families served by Greater Boston Food Bank. For the rest of the year, these young idealists will develop as leaders and community builders with Project 351, but in closing the day’s service they had a chance to hear from Governor Charlie Baker.

This moment in their lives was about service, and I could not help wondering if any of these students would apply to serve with City Year or AmeriCorps one day. It is crucial for us to have a solid group of youthful idealists, if we hope to create a bright future for our society. The Iroquois seemed to believe this, as one of their proverbs stated, “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decision on the next seven generations.” 

If interested in supporting Project 351's Leadership Reunion at Gillette Stadium on May 30th, please email Carolyn at carolyn@project351.

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