For one Dedham Middle School eighth grader an eight-hour day of service didn't just reignite his passion for giving back, but has spurred his drive to lead others into action.
Joe Borsellino represented Dedham at Gov. Deval Patrick's Project 351 in Boston on Jan. 14, and now wants to bring the same enthusiasm that Joe and the other 350 Massachusetts students felt in the Hall of Flags to the corridors of DMS and beyond.
"I definitely feel different after coming back from that experience," Joe said. "I have more enthusiasm to help people more [...] I'm ready to take any challenge before me and help anyone."
Joe attended the second annual Project 351 day from a well-deserved recommendation from DMS principal Debra Gately.
"In addition to what he does here, he is very involved outside in his community through his church group," Gately said. "He is a very, very natural leader."
Joe has a strong leadership role at the school - often in the background - and practices what he preaches by helping others less fortunate.
One of his favorite projects involved making caregiver kits for Africans with HIV through the Allin Congregational Church.
For Project 351, Joe and other like-minded young adults traveled to a Boys and Girls Club in Boston to fill 50 backpacks with much-needed school supplies for Boston children.
While Joe and the others wouldn't be able to see the kids' faces light up when they received their new backpacks, Joe said just thinking how much he helped a boy or girl in needed is satisfying.
"We could tell what their reaction would be like," Joe said. "We were really looking into the words [written on cards for the kids]."
Donning his navy blue Project 351 T-shirt, Joe went through the slogan "Unite. Act. Lead."
"It goes to show you what 'unite' is about. I only made one backpack personally, but together we made 50 - and that is what community service is about," he said.
The enthusiasm Joe brings to the table about giving back is evident by how quickly he rattles off ideas for future projects in town - another AIDS for Africa event and helping seniors - and the respect he has for others who gave him the opportunities to help.
Immediately following his visit to the State House and to Boston, Joe wrote Gately and superintendent June Doe, unsolicited, thanking them for nominating him for Project 351, and he went on to share with them the experiences of the day.
"His maturity is extremely evident," Gately said. "He is going to go and speak to the School Committee as well."
A mentor with Project 351 told the young adults that their "service doesn't end here." After contemplating what that really means, Joe found out.
"You need to continue working at home, for our school and our community. We need to continue to serve," he said.
The day, in part, honors Martin Luther King, Jr., and even though Joe thought they'd be talking more about the civil rights leader, what they did meant more.
"More of it was taking his example, modeling from him and trying to build the world he wanted to create, but sadly couldn't see his dream after his assassination."