The United Way Youth Venture program is returning to schools across North Central Massachusetts this fall to continue the great work being done by students in the community.
During the past academic year, students throughout the region took a stand against the problems of the world and worked together to help those in need through the United Way Youth Venture program. These young members of the community have taken on some of the toughest issues facing society, from ALS to global hunger, and have created new opportunities for the community such as building a community garden and enhancing STEM education in schools. Over 70 new and previously launched Venture Teams were active across the region, from Ayer to Winchendon, with nearly 6,500 students participating in the program’s workshops.
In the coming months, students mostly ages 10 to 22 will devote their time and talents to create service-oriented Venture programs and accomplish many goals during a short time span. Collectively, teams in the last academic year raised nearly $10,000 to support their causes through a variety of community fundraising events. In addition to raising significant funds, some students have taken their Ventures far beyond expectations, said Lauren Mountain, Associate Director of UWYV.
For instance, the Leominster High School-based Venture LEAD, which started three years ago in the wake of the Newtown shooting, has implemented a 700-page mental health curriculum into the Leominster school district this fall with three full classes of a mental health promotion elective. The founding members of LEAD look forward to the whole state integrating their curriculum. Another Venture, Holiday Spreaders, recently made its 33rd consecutive monthly visit to Leominster Crossings, helping to ensure that Alzheimer’s patients at the facility have a consistent support group.
“Not only have these Venturers accomplished inspiring feats as teams, but they have proven on an individual level that they have become leaders in the community in their own right”, Mountain said. “No Venturer exemplifies this more than Rafaela Lopes, lead Venturer of GO Make a Difference. When Lopes first started this Venture three years ago, she was a shy student who had big dreams of volunteering in Haiti, but was unsure of her abilities. Not only was she successful in organizing a service trip to Haiti to help those in need, she has personally been recognized as one of the top youth service leaders in the country. In May, she was awarded the Newman Civic Fellow Award by Campus Compact for her leadership in service.”
“When I first heard about UWYV I thought it was too good to be true, but making the decision to join has changed my life completely and forever,” said Lopes, who is earning an associate degree at the college. “Throughout the years, UWYV gave me numerous opportunities and also gave me the chance to learn, to teach, to make a difference locally and globally and to make my dream come true. I really recommend everyone I know to get involved because it was the best thing that happened to me.”
To learn more about United Way Youth Venture and become involved, visit mwcc.edu/uwyv.
To support the UWYV program, consider sponsoring a Venture Team attendance at the upcoming UWYV Fall Kick-Off event on October 21st, in which MWCC will host approximately 300 students from across the region for a series of inspirational and skill-based workshops. To become a sponsor or donor, contact UWYV Associate Director Lauren Mountain at 978-630-9201.