Middle School

Longsjo Middle School fifth-graders in social studies teacher Ashley Erskine's class have made it their mission to help others in need.

These students with gigantic hearts have spearheaded an initiative that started earlier this month to collect articles of clothing and then donate them to homeless shelters in the state.

"I was blown away at the capabilities of these students," said Erskine, who said an initial fundraiser was started to raise money for a class field trip, butwhen that fell through the kids elected to help the homeless instead of themselves. "They are 10 and 11 years old, and to be a part of this with them, it's incredible. I'm just guiding them along the way."

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Longsjo Middle School sixth-graders Yandel Negron, Mirely Deya, Evie Rivera Acevedo and Monica Stewart have a passion for animals.

The foursome comprise a Longsjo United Way Youth Venture group named Big Donations for Tiny Lives.

This team, with gigantic hearts for animals, recently collected and delivered over $200 worth of items to help animals at the Sterling Animal Shelter.

"All through my life, I've had animals and I love animals," said Stewart. "It makes me feel really good to help animals in any way that I can."

Last year, Negron read an article about the number of animals who are euthanized each year while they're housed in shelters.

The article had a huge impact on the animal-loving Negron, who used it as a springboard for his project when he joined Longsjo's UWYV program.

Yandel's passion for animals was contagious, and he quickly added two fellow fifth-grade students to his venture.

This venture needed to form an action plan, which included researching their idea, formulating a budget, designing/proposing fundraisers to support it and then present their vision to a panel of community members.

At the end of last year, Yandel and his fellow group members were approved to launch their "Big Donations for Tiny Lives" venture.

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The announcers may start each show with a simple "good morning Memorial Middle School," but their messages go far behind the school's walls.

The daily student-led announcements and morning show, which plays on school televisions, are also broadcast on Fitchburg Access Television and archived on the station's website.

"It gives the parents a chance to see, because middle school students don't always tell their parents what is going on," said Principal Francis Thomas. "I think it also gives the community an insight into stuff that goes on in the school."

The show in some form has been going on for decades, but has only more recently started airing on FATV, according to Thomas.

Several of the six students, grades fifth through eighth, who host and work behind the scenes on the show say their parents tune in.

The show opens with the Pledge of Allegiance before launching into announcements and tips.

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Approximately 80 students at the school are finding their own path to make a difference in the community by participating in the United Way Youth Venture of North Central Mass. program.

Students at McKay work together in teams of two or more to make positive impacts in the community with an issue that they are passionate about.

Teams are interested in impacting the community in various ways, including helping homeless and animal shelters, raising money for cancer, natural disaster relief, giving backpacks filled with necessary items to children who are put in foster care and starting a recycling program at the school.

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Project 351 believes that eighth-graders are a remarkable force for good in their community and the world.

Fitchburg has its own young leader -- Memorial Intermediate School student Jailene Poladian -- who is a tremendous student and one that is constantly looking to help others.

"Academically, she's always been at the top of the charts," said Memorial Principal Fran Thomas, who tabbed Poladian for Project 351. "Despite some limitations that she has because of allergies, she's always giving back to the school.


"There was no question, that was an easy pick."

Each fall, educators nominate an eighth-grader to represent each of the Commonwealth's 351 cities and towns for "a transformative year of leadership development and community service".

Poladian couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to represent Memorial and Fitchburg Public Schools.

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Longsjo Middle School is loaded with talented students.

English Language Arts teachers Marylee Harman and Lena Ushakova get the luxury to work with and mold six of the most outstanding eighth-grade writers in the school.

The six students who have shown true passion and skill for reading and writing are Aria DiCato, Andrew Delorme, Jennifer Le, Lea Noguera, Rayyan Mehmud and Charlotte Salvas.

"Each of them are model students here at Longsjo and exemplify what it means to take pride in writing," Harman said. "They are all well spoken, they know what they want to do, they know what their interests are and they are eager to help other students. They are there every day and they don't miss a class. They are prepared and eager to help."

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At Memorial Middle School in Fitchburg, students who are members of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) program -- an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force -- are learning core values that they can use for the rest of their lives.

"They get exposed to a lot of experiences that they wouldn't otherwise get," Memorial psychologist Beth Foley said. "That's more what I'm looking for is them to broaden their horizons and show them what others things are out there. There's a whole wide world out there of things to do and be."

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Indian Hill Music, the region’s premier non-profit community music organization, has partnered with Fitchburg’s McKay Arts Academy (MAA) to launch a dynamic and inclusive band program at the school. This exciting partnership allows MAA and Indian Hill Music to offer students the opportunity to learn an instrument and participate in a high-quality middle school band program for free.

Through this partnership, 33 fifth-grade students are now receiving instrument and ensemble instruction each week during the school day, with the goal of expanding the program each year until it encompasses grades 5 through 8. Instruction includes group lessons in trumpet, trombone, flute, saxophone, clarinet, and percussion instruments. The program is funded by Indian Hill Music with instruments provided this year by MAA.

The partnership between McKay and the Littleton-based Indian Hill Music represents a milestone in the K-8 public school’s mission to integrate the arts into a curriculum that supports students in exploring their creativity.

Students were smiling and sharing laughs with one another during lunch at Memorial Middle School on Friday.

As part of "Start With Hello Week" -- a national youth violence prevention program run by Sandy Hook Promise -- students at Memorial participated in "No One Eats Alone Day."

"We're always trying to teach kids to be kind," Memorial principal Fran Thomas said. "More important than anything else, be kind."

This was the first time Memorial has participated in the "Start With Hello" program, says Memorial psychologist Beth Foley.

"I think it went very well," Foley said. "It was important to explain the events of Sandy Hook and why this program came into existence. The students thought it was very exciting to be participating in events simultaneously with hundreds of other schools across the country. We scheduled activities for three days this year. I hope to expand it when we participate next year."

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