Congratulations to this year’s Herren Project high school scholarship winners, Hilda Maldonado from Burncoat HS in Worcester, MA and Ben Chase from Portsmouth HS in Portsmouth, RI. Hilda and Ben showed exemplary passion and commitment in preventing the misuse of substances, spreading the message of wellness and empowering their peers to take steps towards happier, healthier lives.
We applaud all our applicant’s and the hard work you are all doing in your schools and communities to make a difference.
SCHOLARSHIP AWARD: $1,000
Burncoat High School – Worcester, MA
The Herren Project and I share a mission to support, inspire and empower those affected by substance use disorder. They also promote “Be You” being the very best version of themselves no matter what the circumstances are. The past two years, I have embraced this mission and have been so grateful to be a part of this in my school. The Herren Project Clubs mission made me recognize that I carry these same qualities in myself and I am proud of the person that I have become.
My goal is to help and inspire others that may be dealing with challenging situations that no one should deal with alone. I embodied the Herren Project mission to inspire others and help my classmates recognize amazing qualities in themselves and not let challenges that may surround them in their life define them. I want each student to be the best version of themselves and recognize the importance of educating oneself and making good decisions.
On November 5th, Chris Herren was coming in to speak to our entire student body. On this day, I was going to do something that was totally out of my comfort zone and stand up in front of the entire school and share my story. I had gone back and forth on whether I could do this or if I needed a classmate to read it for me. However, inspired by Chris Herren using his story to help and inspire others I was going to share mine and he was going to be there to listen. This was so important to me that I was going to share my story and I knew there was a man there that could really understand what I have been through. We shared a common goal to inspire others with our story.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” People can change from how you treat them. If you show kindness and understanding they will pass it on to the next person. A lot of people who start using substances because they are not dealing with the way they feel inside. When they meet somebody, who supports and loves them that may change. You never know the struggles going on in others’ lives. Choose kindness and be careful of what you say, you never know what the student sitting next to you is going through.
SCHOLARSHIP AWARD: $1,000
Portsmouth High School – Portsmouth, RI
Freshman year of high school was filled with amazing experiences for me. I had great success in running, so my coach recommended that I attend the Life of an Athlete conference with a prevention-related club at Portsmouth High School called Patriots Committed. Here, other leadership groups from across the country shared ideas about how they prevent substance abuse in their communities. I also learned a great deal of information about how to eat healthy as an athlete and how to recover. At this conference I realized that if I want to be the best in a sport, that I have to be dedicated. Consequently, my sophomore year, I joined Patriots Committed. We did an outreach to the Wilbur & McMahon School and taught them about healthy living, did a presentation to the high school about stress during before midterms, put posters around the school about drug abuse and perhaps my favorite event, THP Project Purple Dodgeball.
Dodgeball was not just one day, but it was a whole week of THP Project Purple related events. As a club, we decorated the lobby with “I am” papers that students filled out and all around the school there was purple. At our dodgeball event we read an excerpt about Chris Herren’s life and what being purple means. Many teams from the high school, a team from each school in Portsmouth and a police/fire team competed in the tournament to come together endorse Herren Project and Chris Herren’s mission.
Sadly, in my junior year of high school, participation in Patriots Committed dwindled dramatically, but I was so passionate in the area of healthy living and prevention at this point that I did not want to let this club go. Thanks to the assistant principal, she recommended a couple of our Patriots Committed members to attend a leadership conference called Youth to Youth at Bryant college in the summer before junior year. It turned out to be the best experience of my year. Everybody at the conference was exceptionally positive minded. At the conference, I attended workshops about stress, leadership, accepting people as who they are and more.
Luckily, I got to go the following summer and this is where I really became inspired. Patriots Committed was dying, and I came up with the idea, along with support from classmates, to rename the club Youth to Youth Portsmouth and embody the qualities of wellness, positivity and inclusion, instead of having a strict drug/alcohol free stigma. Over the summer, I met with the club and we shared our ideas with our advisors of the re-modeling. We then took our new club to freshmen orientation where we gained interest. We started off the year with a couple of meetings and then put on a capture the flag tournament in which the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition sponsored. We got shirts, came up with a mission, and are now planning Herren Project Dodgeball and an outreach to Portsmouth Middle School with our club of more than twice the size of last year. Kids in our club and kids that attend our events have various backgrounds whether they have dealt with substance abuse in any way or not, but our main goal is to make sure people are being the best version of themselves.