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United Way Youth Venture Inspires Students at Fall Kickoff Event

Five people stand on a stage.
The Cool the School group from Sky View Middle School in Leominster poses after receiving the Emerging Leaders in Middle School Award at the United Way Youth Venture Fall Kickoff. Pictured from left to right are Taylor Doyle-LeBouf, UWYV Champion at Sky View Sharyn Tomasso, Gina Iacoboni, Sarah Potter, and Katelyn Thompson.

The United Way Youth Venture program celebrated students and prepared them for the coming year of efforts to bring change to their communities at the program’s inspirational Fall Kickoff event held at Mount Wachusett Community College on October 19.

More than 350 students assembled on the MWCC campus to learn how they can create change in their communities through numerous workshops and speakers. These students were from all along the Route 2 belt and include public schools from Fitchburg, Leominster, Winchendon, Ayer, Shirley, Ashburnham, and Westminster. They will take the knowledge and inspiration from the event back to their schools and their ventures as they seek to make a positive impact on their communities. The event also served to recognize participants already making a difference in their communities.

Attendees heard from keynote speaker Maria Milagros Vasquez. She is a speaker, author, empowerment coach and founder of Maria Milagros, a company dedicated to helping others find freedom from any hindrances that are preventing them from living a life that they love.
Participating students also attended informative and educational hands-on workshops to learn more about topics such as substance abuse prevention, military and veterans’ issues, the use of social media and self-care.

Time at the event was also taken to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of some of the top contributors to the program over the past year. Six awards were given out to those who embody what it is to be a civic leaders with the hope that others will be inspired to follow in their footsteps.
The Lifetime of Achievement Certificate was awarded to Gina Wironen. Her selfless leadership has given thousands of kids the opportunity to participate in youth venture in Leominster for over 16 years. The Ally of the Year award was presented to Al Mercardo, who went the extra mile in his guidance and willingness to support the Current Events Club venture team at Fitchburg High School. The Champion of the Year award went to Sarah Carnabucci, Champion at McKay Arts Academy in Fitchburg. This first-year Champion piloted a classroom model program, embedding Youth Venture into the curriculum while launching eight Venture Teams in this first year.

Changemakers of the Year was awarded to the Venture Team Paws for Psych from Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham for their efforts in raising money and awareness for the benefits of therapy dogs. The Emerging Leaders in High School Award was given to the Current Events Club from Fitchburg High School. This team helped to raise funds for cancer, the homeless, and the citizens of Puerto Rico. Lastly, the Emerging Leaders in Middle School Award went to Cool the School group from Sky View Middle School in Leominster for recognizing the need for quiet environmentally friendly fans in their school.
This United Way Youth Venture Fall Kickoff received large school sponsorships from Workers Credit Union and Heywood Hospital. Small school sponsorships were received from P.J. Keating, Unitil, Aubuchon Hardware and Avidia Bank.

The United Way Youth Venture program is looking forward to all of the great work that the adults and students of the program will continue to do over the next year as they help transform our community for the better. To learn more about United Way Youth Venture and how to become involved, you can visit If you would like to support the UWYV program, become a sponsor or donor by contacting UWYV Director Lauren Mountain at 978-630-9201.