It’s not often that Superintendent Stephen Mills addresses Acton-Boxborough students and shares a personal story.
This past Monday night, however, Dr. Mills did just that. Speaking to the large group of high school students and parents that filled the auditorium for the 12th annual Community Service Awards Night, he related the impressions he formed about Martin Luther King, Jr. as he watched Dr. King on television in the 1960s.
Mills said that he and his family witnessed “graphic video” of the mistreatment of blacks during the civil rights movement.
“I distinctively remember my father being visibly upset,” he said, adding that the elder Mills began writing letters to elected officials, urging them to remedy the situation.
Agreeing with King’s statement Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, Mills developed nothing but respect for the civil rights leader who was ultimately robbed of the chance to see his dreams come to fruition.
Years later, while on a work-related trip to Atlanta, Mills decided to forego the sightseeing suggested by his colleagues; instead, he visited the Ebenezer Baptist Church and King’s final resting place.
Paraphrasing King’s words, Mills said, “Never forget that you can be great, simply because you can serve.”
By any standard, the students who earned recognitions this year did an admirable job of serving.
Logging 67,677 hours of charitable work, the 698 recipients of ABRHS Community Service Certificates, ABRHS Community Service Awards, and President’s Volunteer Service Awards impressed principal Alixe Callen.
“We don’t require community service,” Dr. Callen said, adding that she is pleased that volunteerism has become such a large part of the school’s culture. “We honor it because we believe in it.”
Students Sophie Purdom, Mihir Manchiraju, Angela Zhao, Lindsay Buckle, Kevin Troy and Jacob Senghas each spoke to the audience about their contributions.
“Everyone here has done their share to strengthen our community,” said Manchiraju, acknowledging the commonality of the accomplishments. “But the effect on each of the people we helped was unique.”
Buckle’s experience in the Dominican Republic supported Manchiraju’s assertion. Explaining that the simple act of peeling a few days’ supply of beans for a local woman garnered a great deal of thankfulness, she said, “I felt I did something worthwhile.”
Troy, who also went on the Dominican Republic trip, said, “The adage, ‘One person can make a difference’ is no longer a cliché to me.”
Purdom labored closer to home. A member of Power Down and other "green” initiatives, she talked about being part of the team that reduced the high school’s electricity use by $33,000 in one year.
“I never thought I’d be up on ladders, popping out lights, or dumpster diving,” Purdom said.
The leaders of Youths in Philanthropy announced the group's commitment to fund four projects. After they reviewed requests from ten non-profit organizations, the students selected the ’ proposal to open their doors free of charge to youngsters experiencing autism and hearing loss, Indian Hill’s music therapy initiative, Communities for Restorative Justice’s mission, and the Restoration Project’s scholarship program for veterans.
Representatives from the four beneficiaries expressed their appreciation to Youths in Philanthropy members.
“These students were impressive in their process,” said Indian Hill Music Executive Director Susan Randazzo. “We are very grateful to them and look forward to the partnership.”
Callen explained the tradition of recognizing a staff member at each community service awards ceremony. She introduced Kenny Priest, a campus monitor, who was selected this year for his dedication to elderly men and women.
“He spends many hours of his own time playing music and singing at nursing homes,” Callen said of Priest.
The evening closed with a slide show that included photos of students performing a wide variety of community service work.
Jean and Greg Doelp, attending the ceremony with their son Andrew, praised the students.
“I was very impressed with all of the hours the kids spent,”said Greg.
“The diversity of the projects was amazing,” said Jean.
Both said that the kids inspired them to think about what else they want to do to help others.
- The annual ABRHS Community Service Awards Night is funded by donations. Anyone wishing to contribute may send a check made out to ABRHS to the attention of Kay Steeves at the high school. For more information, email Steeves at email@example.com.