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Change rocks for 400 youth

Fitchburg, MA - They came to listen, learn and share how they were improving their communities.  Over 400 middle and high school students participated in the United Way Youth Venture Year End Celebration titled Change Rocks at the Courtyard by Marriott Fitchburg Thursday morning (May 07, 2009).
"This is a great event since it allows the United Way Youth Venture teams to share their ideas, inspiration and goals for creating a better community," commented Phil Grzewinski, president of United Way of North Central Massachusetts, which launched the initiative in 2001.   
The United Way Youth Venture program, which is in 11 local schools and after school programs in Fitchburg, Leominster, Shirley, Devens and Winchendon, inspires and invests in teams of young people to create and launch their own sustainable, community-benefitting initiatives.
Kathryn Lyon of Shirley, MA was named Champion of the Year for her work with all of the teams in Shirley, both at Shirley Middle School and at Lura White Elementary.
In addition, Sharyn Tomasso of Leominster, MA was named Ally of the Year for her work with two Youth Venture teams in Leominster, Freedom Venture and Hawk's Nest at Sky View Middle School, whose goal is to build an outdoor classroom at the school.
Matt Bernard of Landpro Landscaping, Inc., Leominster, MA, who worked with Hawks Nest and Courtyard Beautification, was awarded Community Partner of the Year.  They donated product and volunteered to help the two teams implement their projects.
Cassie Cooley of Leominster from Teen Reach at Leominster High School, which spearheaded a youth leadership initiative, including a conference on youth leadership for nearly 100 area youth on Martin Luther King Day, received a $1,000 scholarship because she exemplified youth empowerment, commitment to community and United Way Youth Venture.
Kayla Reeves of Shirley from Team Ultimate at the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens, which teaches team building skills to inner city kids, also received a scholarship along with Katie
Roy of Shirley, from Kids at Play, which provides after-school programming for elementary school children in Shirley.
Team Ultimate and Skaters of Shirley received the first annual "Changemakers" awards for their significant impact on the community, and each team received $100 toward their future efforts
Youth from middle and high schools in Massachusetts and New Hampshire participated in the half day event, which included breakout sessions and featured special guest speaker Jeff Yalden, a youth motivational speaker and an MTV MADE Teen Life Coach.
Mount Wachusett Community College's Center for Democracy and Humanity helps run the program for United Way.
"The event provides a tremendous opportunity for these young people to network with their fellow Changemakers, share ideas, and discover ways their teams can work together for the greater good," commented MWCC President Dan Asquino.
The event was sponsored by Youth Venture®, United Ways of North Central Massachusetts, Greater Nashua, Tri-County, Mount Wachusett Community College and Nashua Community College.
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