Gardner, Mass. – Nearly 500 students from Leominster, Fitchburg, Ayer, Townsend, Gardner and Winchendon spent a day at Mount Wachusett Community College learning how to design, implement and sustain their own community-service projects through United Way Youth Venture.

Students began their morning with a welcome from President Dan Asquino, Mount Wachusett Community College. The college runs the program for United Way of North Central Massachusetts. Bob Chauvin, chairman, of United Way, thanked the students for being leaders in their communities.

Keynote speaker was Marlo Alvarado Custodio, a community organizer and a filmmaker from California, who created a documentary that was exhibited in the U.S. Department of Education by CARE, a humanitarian organization, and the White House initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

After the welcome, the students had the opportunity to attend eight workshops, on a variety of topics from creative fundraising to training. The students will use the skills they learned to help implement a variety of community-service projects, from helping feed children to addressing bullying.

United Way Youth Venture is a partnership that includes: United Way of North Central Massachusetts, 20 middle and high schools in 11 area school districts,Mount Wachusett Community College, and two community-based organizations/after school programs. It reaches over 2,500 students. Over 200 teams have been launched since 2002, with 135 active today.