The Mount Wachusett Community College-based United Way Youth Venture of North Central Massachusetts Program supports outstanding Venturers with annual scholarships for graduating seniors and college students who exemplify leadership and changemaking.
This year, the Changemaker Award went to the Fab 5 Venture Team out of Ayer-Shirley Regional High School. Team members Lei Lani Harmon, Claire Hefti, Gabrielle Holland, Liliana Kaeppel, and Victoria Salmon were recognized for their community service work.
The Phil Grzewinski Innovation Award was presented to Gabrielle Holland, a founding member of the Fab 5 team during her freshman year at Ayer-Shirley Regional High School. As the consistent leader of the Fab 5 team throughout her high school years, Holland has demonstrated steadfast determination to creatively solve challenges while leading her team. Her experiences in Youth Venture have influenced her future, she has chosen to pursue a career in community organizing and fundraising. Holland will attend Fitchburg State University to study Business Management.
The Bob Chauvin Leadership Award went to Francis W. Parker Charter School’s Noelle Piltzecker. Piltzecker was a Venture team member before she started at Parker when she participated on her sister’s Venture team, Pink Ladies, in support of breast cancer awareness. During her time at Parker, she founded Colors for Kenya, which collects and sends school supplies to schools in Kenya. She has been an invaluable resource to many developing Venture Teams. This year, she and fellow students launched a new project, the Courtyard Cleanup Venture Team, which created a pool of student-raised funds to distribute across several classrooms and club-based courtyard rehabilitation solutions, making it possible for the school community to share in their vision to make the courtyard and inviting space for learning and restoring. Piltzecker will be attending UMass Lowell where she will pursue a nursing degree.
The first of the two United Way Youth Venture scholarships went to Gardner High School’s Leilani Markley. Markley and her team used their passion for sports to create a Venture aimed at helping kids to be able to play sports even if they cannot afford the equipment. Markley collaborated with local leaders and school administrators to place collection boxes around the city and at each school. Markley will be attending UMass Amherst in the fall to study kinesiology.
Oakmont Regional High School’s Quinn Sugar received the second United Way Youth Venture scholarship for his work on his co-founded Venture team Growing Towards the Future. This Venture team fused the student’s love of gardening with a desire to unite different groups of students and promote a spirit of inclusion. The Venture team works with the special needs student program to grow produce for the school cafeteria and local food banks, teaching the importance of teamwork while feeding the community. Quinn will be attending UMass’s Isenberg School of Management, Honors College in the fall.
United Way Youth Venture inspires and invests in teams of youth primarily between the ages of 10 to 22 to create lasting social change using their interests and passions to address a problem in the community. Ventures are completely youth-created and youth-led. Through the process of launching a Venture, young people learn the important skills of leadership, teamwork, entrepreneurship, and empathy as well as other valuable life skills. Learn more at uwyv.mwcc.edu