Youth Service America recently announced that Jarrad Plante, a graduate student at UMass Dartmouth School for Education, Public Policy, and Civic Engagement has been awarded $1,000 State Farm Good Neighbor grant to work with local middle school students to establish food pantries at the Morton and Talbot middle schools in Fall River.
Plante, who grew up in Dighton, now lives in Fall River. After graduating from UMass Dartmouth with a degree in sociology with a concentration in criminal justice, he joined AmeriCorps, which took him to community service adventures in South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and Florida.
The project developed out of the LEADS (Leadership for Educational Attainment Developed through Service Program) at the UMass Dartmouth Center for Civic Engagement. LEADS is designed to connect the University to middle schools in Fall River and New Bedford. Mr. Plante, who is working toward his master's degree in public policy focusing on environmental policy, is one of the LEADS coordinators.
"I have embarked on being a corps member with Commonwealth Corps and the LEADS program because I love helping people and serving the community, it is part of who I am and what I do,'' Plante said.
Dr. Matthew Roy, Director of the UMass Dartmouth Center for Civic Engagement said of the award: "It's wonderful because it not only directly benefits the community but it gives our middle school children another learning challenge. They will have to determine how to best utilize $1,000 to operate our pantries."
To sustain the project, the students plan to use canned and dry food donations as student admission for upcoming student events such as dances and open houses. They also plan to solicit donations from the community. The middle school students have already collected more than 2,000 canned goods. Through their experience thus far, one student said, "I did not know how much hunger and homelessness there was even in my own neighborhood."
The Center for Civic Engagement at UMass Dartmouth, in collaboration with the Fall River and New Bedford public school departments have developed LEADS, which is supported by the Massachusetts Commonwealth Corp program. Each week, university students, known as Commonwealth Corps members, meet with middle school students to teach leadership through community service projects.
If you would like to donate non-perishable food items to the Morton or Talbot Food Pantries, please feel free to drop food off during school hours, 8am -- 2pm. If you need assistance, please call Morton Middle School at 508.675.8340 or Talbot at 508.675.8350.
Jarrad Plante can be reached at 508.496.9284 or Jdp033@aol.com.