GRAFTON, Mass. — Erica St. Jean, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at the Grafton Middle School, will meet Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick as she, and other students her age from each town, will spend the day participating in a community service program called Project 351.
On Saturday, Erica will go to Boston for a full-day of charitable activities, such as feeding the hungry at a food bank.
The initiative was started by the governor to inspire middle school students to give back to the community. Erica, along with nine of her fellow classmates, submitted a page and a half essay to a panel of teachers expressing why she would be a good fit for the program.
“I've spent a lot of time with different charities,” she said. Among other places, Erica donated her time at the Community Harvest Project, the all-volunteer farm that donates its crops to the Worcester County Food Bank, and Jeremiah’s Inn, a transition boarding house for homeless men to return to mainstream society.
Erica said much of her volunteer work is organized around her family and their church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Westborough.
Based on her resume, Erica appears to be a good fit. “Project 351 is designed to inspire, challenge, and motivate our next generation of leaders to give back and make significant impact in our community,” said Patrick in a news release.
Assistant Principal Timothy Fauth said he and a team of teachers decided on who would represent the middle school based on how that person conducted their life. “Program 351 is looking for students who embody the core values,” he said, which included citizenship, character, and leadership.
Fauth said the decision was difficult because each of the nine students possessed the qualities but only one was to be selected.
“All of the students who sent essays did a great job,” said Fauth. “But Erica tied it all together as more of a community service piece.”
Erica's favorite subjects are science and math but said that English language arts was "more fun this year" and said her parents are excited and proud that she was selected and is looking forward to representing Grafton.
But what will all this character-building produce when she grows up: a doctor, scientist, or maybe president?
"I'm not sure," she sad. "I wanted to be a vet when I was younger. But there is so much to do."