No one person can solve all the world’s problems. But every person can make a difference, said Anna Noroian, an eighth-grader at Hopkinton Middle School.
“Small ripples can make a big wave,” she said. “Every step we take to be a better community together, I think that’s important.”
Noroian will spend the upcoming year making waves as she focuses on community service, as she was selected to be Hopkinton’s Project 351 ambassador.
Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision, the Project 351 program honors his life and legacy by bringing together one eighth grade student from every community in Massachusetts. Together, these 351 students “embrace the responsibility to lead with a determination to make a difference,” according to information provided by Project351.org.
“From 351 cities and towns, they become one community, one team, one force for extraordinary good,” according to the project website. “They join a warm, welcoming community built on the belief that service is joy and that world-changing impact is possible. They offer their unique gifts, force of idealism and dedication to a cause greater than self.”
The program was begun in 2011 by then-Gov. Deval Patrick.
Noroian was nominated by her teachers for best exemplifying Hopkinton Middle School’s mission “to grow an active community of strong minds and kind hearts,” according to a message sent about her nomination to the middle school community.
“Her strong mind provides a foundation for not only academic success but to speak up when necessary and to serve as an ally for all,” middle school principal Alan Keller told the Hopkinton School Committee at a recent meeting. “She demonstrates a kind heart in every action; she is respectful, caring, thoughtful. Her teachers describe her as an asset to class discussions and a team player.”
In more traditional times, the ambassadors would gather at the Statehouse in Boston to meet and learn more about the year ahead. Instead, the ambassadors will break into teams that connect weekly via Zoom.
The project includes two major community service efforts. In the spring, the ambassadors host clothing drives for Cradles to Crayons. This nonprofit organization provides essentials such as coats, pajamas and developmental toys to children in need.
Noroian plans to host her drive at Hopkinton Middle School.
In the fall, to commemorate the Sept. 11 national day of service, a second statewide project will be planned, although details have yet to be announced.
Noroian described her selection as “very exciting” and a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” She and her family are grateful for the opportunity, she said.
Much of her current work with her Project 351 team involves learning the details of organizing efforts such as the Cradle to Crayons drive to make sure the “spring service project will really go well.”
Her team meetings also work to inspire participants as they learn more about community service, she said.
She hopes their efforts will help encourage her peers to work to benefit their own communities. Young people can start small, she said. “The definition of community service isn’t solving huge, huge problems” all at once, she said.
Instead, she said, step by step they can build a path to a better world. “If you want to give back, go out and be the change you want to see in the world,” she said.