By Ann Needle  

Brielle Parse (l) and Emmeline Weeks with Governor Charlie Baker at Project 351’s MLK service day.        Courtesy
Brielle Parse (l) and Emmeline Weeks with Governor Charlie Baker at Project 351’s MLK service day. Courtesy

Some friendships are just meant to be, regardless of distance or separate lives. This year, two teens from Stow and Maynard are putting their friendship to work for other students across Massachusetts. They are hoping that town residents will help through donations of clothing and supplies.

Stow’s Brielle Parse and Maynard’s Emmeline Weeks are involved this year in Project 351, a non-profit that promotes leadership skills and community service among teens selected from the state’s 351 cities and towns. Each year, Project 351 chooses one eighth grader from each town to participate in a community project over Martin Luther King Day weekend, with the option to sign on for service projects the rest of the year.

According to Weeks, the teens’ status as best friends dates back to a Stow Destination ImagiNation team, which Emmeline joined because Maynard was not sponsoring one. But Parse noted that, remarkably, the two did not find out they each were selected as their towns’ Project 351 ambassadors until they happened to attend a holiday party in December at a mutual friend’s house.

Project 351 reported that each ambassador is chosen by his or her school for their “exemplary ethic of service and demonstration of Project 351 values of humility, compassion, kindness, and generosity of spirit.”

Weeks said her teachers simply announced she had been selected. However, Parse said Hale asked for candidates to apply, requiring them to write an essay on why they wanted to be a part of Project 351.

For the MLK service day, Parse explained that she worked with a group coordinating several items for the Pine Street Inn, such as assembling hygiene kits and making scarfs. One of the day’s projects Weeks spoke of was her group’s visit to the Boston Green Academy charter school in Brighton. “These kids have been going to school in a building that’s falling around them,” so the group spent time painting 17 colorful murals on the school’s outdated walls, she said.

 Taking Service Home
Parse and Weeks decided to to pair up locally for Project 351’s spring service project. This focuses on Cradles to Crayons, a non-profit organization that aims to bring children in need the supplies that are essential to feeling warm and safe, and to learning. “The whole purpose is to get you to build your team and become a leader,” Parse remarked.

Weeks reported that much of this leadership practice focuses on learning how to gather other organizations and businesses in Stow and Maynard behind the team’s clothing drive for C2C. From March 25 to April 12, Parse and Weeks will be collecting new and (very) gently used clothing for infants through teens, along with arts and crafts supplies, throughout their towns. The list of items the pair is seeking includes clothes, coats, pajamas, art supplies, shoes, shirts, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and pants. Parse mentioned that there are other non-profits they will donate items to that C2C doesn’t need.

Parse outlined how she involved the eighth grade homerooms at Hale in the project, with collection boxes placed in each of these rooms. The homeroom with the largest collection wins a prize. At her church (First Parish of Stow and Acton) Parse said she has a collection bin set up, and fellow Youth Group members pledged to help with sorting the items.

Another collection bin will be located at Miss Tricia’s Dance Studio in Maynard, where Parse noted she has been very active for years. With a number of the studio’s dance teams hoping to collect enough money to make it to a national competition this year, she is offering $100 from an anonymous donor to the team collecting the most items.

Weeks also is offering prize incentives to eighth grade homerooms at Maynard High School (which houses grades 8 through 12), and reported that she successfully obtained the backing of the school’s Student Council. The principals of all three Maynard schools also listed collection information on their online blogs. Several Maynard businesses and organizations have offered to put up bins, including the Boys & Girls Club of Assabet Valley, she said.

Parse mentioned that, after the year finished, she and Weeks can apply to be alumnae and work with other ambassadors in the area. Weeks recalled working with one Maynard alumni this year, who “spent four days folding clothes.”

In the nearer future, Weeks said the pair is planning to attend the Project 351 annual Leadership Reunion, which brings the year’s ambassadors together, usually at Gillette Stadium. As Weeks commented from the first-hand experience of meeting her best friend, “It’s also about meeting people from other towns.”