NORTH READING — A quiet leader has been chosen to represent North Reading Middle School as its Project 351 Ambassador for 2023.

Eighth-grader Madeline D’Angelo returned from the first in-person Launch Day to be held since before Covid inspired and enthusiastic about leading her service project to benefit Cradles to Crayons.

Students from each of the 351 cities and town in the Commonwealth gathered at Boston’s Faneuil Hall on a recent Saturday where they were mentored by past ambassadors and honed their leadership and team-building skills through shared community service activities throughout the city.

The goal of Project 351 is to mobilize these future leaders by inspiring the teens to return to their communities where they will continue to develop their leadership skills by completing a common service project. The ripple effect multiplies their efforts many times over.

At Launch Day, Madeline recalled, “all of the service teams got together and we got to put on our shirts for the very first time as a whole group and it was really awesome. Just meeting all those new people was really great.”

She liked that they broke the group down into teams of smaller groups “so that you get more one-on-one experience with previous ambassadors who are now volunteering to help out. It was really helpful to hear from them as well and they guided us the whole day. It was so much fun!”

Each smaller group had about seven kids. In her group, she made friends with kids from Everett, Lexington, Marlborough and a few different towns in Western Massachusetts. “A bunch of the teams were put together to go off to our first service as an ambassador. We went to Suffolk Downs in East Boston and we did a bunch of mini-service projects all wrapped up together,” she said.

These projects benefit people of all ages. “We got to make Valentines for veterans and we made them little candy bags and little cards. We also painted flower pots to send to veterans,” she recalled.

“We partnered with Annie’s Kindness Blankets to make blankets for mothers and kids in hospitals recovering, and also mental hospital patients,” she added.

In addition to the blankets they made individual personal care bags for the patients filled with “basic necessities” such as “little tissue packets, hand sanitizers and candy.”

Having a variety of projects to do was a lot of fun, Madeline said.

School Principal Dr. Catherine O’Connell said Madeline is the first student ambassador that she can recall whose Launch Day activities focused on such a variety of service projects.

When she’s not volunteering or studying favorite subjects like ELA, creative writing, poetry, art and Spanish, Madeline is dancing. “I’m a competitive dancer outside of school. It takes up a lot of my time. I dance four days a week and on Wednesdays I am there from 3:15 to 9:15 p.m., but I really love it. It is so much fun!” She dances at and competes for Encore Dance Academy in Reading and her favorite genre is contemporary or lyrical because “there is a lot of variety and fluidity and less focus on technique. I tend to perform more free artistry.”

She is the big sister of Jack, a third-grader at the Hood, and the daughter of Angela and Matthew D’Angelo.

Clothing Drive March 20-31

Currently, Madeline’s focus is on completing her clothing drive to benefit Cradles to Crayons, which she is launching this coming Monday, March 20 at the Middle School. Her drive will continue through Friday, March 31.

“So our first service project as ambassadors and bringing it back to our own towns is partnering with Cradles to Crayons doing a clothing drive for kids in need of clothes all around the state. We are collecting clothes that have been gently used or even new, if possible. We’re hoping to get as much as we can to do our part as a town,” Madeline said.

Since she loves graphic design, she has designed her own fliers to be distributed throughout the school and via various social media channels and even the TV slides on the school’s Main Street. She has partnered with the Middle School’s peer leaders to help spread the word and share the work involved in such a large undertaking. And yes, there is a prize incentive (drum roll please!). The grade that brings in the most clothing with earn a homework-free weekend!

Donation boxes will be located at the main entrance to the Middle School starting on Monday.

Anyone who has any questions about Madeline’s Project 351 clothing drive may talk to her or a peer leader or send an email to Madeline ([email protected]) or Dr. O’Connell at [email protected]