Dartmouth middle schooler represents town in youth service project

Mar 17, 2021

This article has been updated to include comments from school guidance counselor Alison Caito-Galligan.

One Dartmouth eighth grader will be completing a year of service with kids from every community in Massachusetts after she was selected to represent the town for the youth service nonprofit Project 351.

Fourteen-year-old Audrey Kertscher, daughter of Kate and Kevin Kertscher, was chosen by middle school guidance counselor Alison Caito-Galligan as Dartmouth’s Project 351 ambassador for 2021.

She’s just an amazing kid, very very compassionate,” said Caito-Galligan. “She’ll always go over to the student that’s sitting by themselves and not engaged in conversation and strike up a conversation.”

“She’s got a heart of gold,” the guidance counselor added. “She’s absolutely the ambassador for all kids.”

For the past several weeks, Kertscher has been attending Zoom meetings twice a week with 350 other project ambassadors and their program alumni mentors. 

The students discuss leadership and will soon begin planning the first of four service projects they will be completing this year.

Project 351 was started in 2011 by then-Governor Deval Patrick as a way to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by focusing on youth leadership, statewide unity, and community service.

Kertscher said that the first service project will be a clothing drive, with a five-mile walk planned for the summer and two other projects they have yet to discover.

“It’s a thing we learn about as we do it, so it’s a learning experience,” she explained. 

And although this year’s program is mostly virtual for now, she noted, “it’s still really fun and a good opportunity.”

So far, Kertscher said she’s enjoying the program. 

“You get to meet people from everywhere,” she said.

But what she’s really excited about is being able to teach younger kids as an alumni mentor in the years to come.

“[Learning about] how to help the community is really important, but teaching others is even more important,” she said. “Because it helps keep it going through every generation, and for every class that passes through.”

Kertscher thanked Caito-Galligan for the chance to participate in the program.

“I’m so inspired by her. She’s one of the biggest role models in my life,” she said. “She really believes in me.”

As for what she’s learned about leadership in the project so far, Kertscher said, one thing has stuck with her.

“Even the little actions that you make matter,” she said. “So if you’re nice to one person, or you help them with something, that person might go and be nice to three other people. And it just keeps going...getting bigger each time.”

“Even if you think something you’re doing doesn’t matter, it really does matter in the long run,” she added.