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‘We can make a huge change:’ Project 351 kicks off its year of community service

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Jasna Singh, an eighth grader from Lexington, has volunteered at her religious center and library, and once a year, she and her family put on a clothing drive at a homeless shelter. Now, her goal is to get the entire Lexington community involved in service.

Singh and 368 other eighth graders across the Bay State for the next year will be tasked with making a positive impact in their communities, and throughout the state, through service as ambassadors for Project 351.

“I think together we can make a huge change,” Singh said. “I have learned that looking past everything that’s superficial you can see anybody could serve and do something great.”

A Saturday morning kickoff celebration at Faneuil Hall launched Project 351’s year of service, leadership development and civic engagement. The 369 eighth graders this year are the thirteenth cohort of student ambassadors for the youth-service nonprofit that former-Gov. Deval Patrick founded in 2011.

Students from all 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth — from Provincetown to Adams — participated in service projects across Boston Saturday afternoon, following the kickoff celebration that featured remarks from Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of Embrace Boston, and Gov. Maura Healey.

Serving as a student ambassador is a notable feat since there is no application process. Educators nominate and select their community’s ambassador based on criteria and a process that Project 351 provides, according to the organization. Ambassadors serve terms from January through the December of their freshman year.

Project 351 provides ambassadors with mentorship, training and experiential leadership. Since its founding, more than 4,400 ambassadors have impacted more than 1.2 million Massachusetts residents.

“Our service focus is primarily on the causes and consequences of poverty,” Project 351 Executive Director Carolyn Casey said, “but our mission is to develop a new generation of diverse changemakers. In our thirteenth year, we are really privileged because we have so many alumni doing just that for careers.”

Following their terms, ambassadors get the option to become alumni who continue to work with Project 351 by leading service projects, mentoring teams of current ambassadors and guiding them regionally.

Palak Yadav launched her journey as an ambassador for Medway in 2021 at the height of COVID-19, and she said she felt powerless and disconnected from the world.

Project 351 made Yadav aware that she’s not alone, and by working together with other ambassadors, something powerful can be achieved, she said.

Her message to this year’s Project 351 class: “Words probably can’t describe everything you experience today. You experience so much joy, so much gratitude, humility. Words just limit the feelings. Just know you’re here for a reason.”

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 14-SATURDAY: A group of high school seniors who have pledged to do their part in service to their respective communities stand as they are recognized for their dedication during as meeting of the Project 351 at Faneuil HallJanuary 14, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

A group of high school seniors who have pledged to do their part in service to their respective communities stand as they are recognized for their dedication during as meeting of the Project 351 at Faneuil Hall on Saturday in Boston. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 14-SATURDAY: Imari Paris Jeffries addresses a group of youngsters in attendance who have pledged to do their part in service to their respective communities during as meeting of the Project 351 at Faneuil HallJanuary 14, 2023, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

Imari Paris Jeffries addresses a group of youngsters in attendance who have pledged to do their part in service to their respective communities during as meeting of the Project 351 at Faneuil Hall Saturday. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

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