Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM Jan Kingan described her son Adam as having a tremendous sense of the human condition, seeing and responding to the needs of others a quality well beyond his years.
She said he is not the best student at Agawam High School, adding that if he likes a class he earns a "good" grade and if he doesn't, he is less likely to apply himself. Jan explained, however, that her son's personality goes far beyond his grade point average and rightfully earned him the place as Agawam High School's only representative at the Massachusetts Students Accepting Responsibility (MassSTAR) Citizenship Conference.
Each year one exceptional sophomore from each high school in the Commonwealth is invited by the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation (MYLF) to represent his or her district at the organization's annual MassSTAR Citizenship Conference. MYLF is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing high school sophomore students with the skills to promote positive change on their communities.
Adam was one of over 100 students at the 2008 MassSTAR conference, a three-day event which brought together various political, educational and business personnel to "explore the meaning of Responsibility, Respect, Intentionality, Initiative and Collaboration," according to Jennifer Coliflores, co-executive director of MYLF. The conference, which took place at Lasell College, is free of charge for all students.
Students participate in various discussion panels, listen to lectures, attend a Community Service Fair and engage in other activities to promote their awareness of quality citizenship characteristics, Coliflores explained.
"It's a very life-changing experience," Adam told Reminder Publications. "I think every single school should send someone [to the conference]."
He added that the most important lesson he learned was "how to be a better leader by being a better follower." Adam said the conference has empowered him to participate in more volunteer projects and also try to promote greater volunteerism among his peers.
"I like helping people," he said. "It's a really good feeling when you give your time to help someone else."
Jan noted that prior to the conference her son volunteered his time to build houses for Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans through HOPE Worldwide.
Adam said that he plans to take his knowledge gained from the conference to initiate some of his own projects such as establishing a teen center in Agawam. He said he also wants to increase donations for Project Smile, a non-profit organization that collects new and gently used stuffed animals for police and fire departments to distribute to children during a time of crisis.
"I just think it's probably a simple thing to give a stuffed animal or two," Adam said. "It's not that demanding."
Coliflores, who attended the conference in 2000, said the conference energized her and made her excited to give back to the community. She added that she hopes more high schools throughout the Commonwealth will nominate students to attend the conference.
"Now I'm trying to give back to an organization that gave so much to me," Coliflores said of her continued involvement in MYLF.
She explained that the conference teaches high school sophomores that their young age does not mean that they are "limited to what they can contribute" to the community.
Adam said he will continue his involvement in MYLF by being the co-liaison for Western Massachusetts and he also plans to volunteer at next year's MassSTAR Conference.
"I'm definitely going to help out as much as I can," he said.
For more information about MYLF go to www.massstar.org.