As a member of the chorus, South Middle School eighth grader Emma Rutan helps out after school and is a mentor to younger performers. In her fifth year at her dance studio in Quincy, she is an assistant teacher.
"It's a really fun way to express yourself and meet a lot of new people," Emma said of her experience with the South choir.
For a similar reason, Rutan is excited about this Saturday, when she will be among 351 students from across Massachusetts selected for a service day by local educators.
Chaired by Gov. Deval Patrick, Project 351 "celebrates the ethic of service, youth leadership, and the power of community to uplift and unite."
"Project 351 is designed to inspire, challenge and motivate our next generation of leaders to give back and make a significant impact in our community," Patrick said in a statement.
When the project was coming up again this year – Sarah Murphy of East Middle School was chosen last year – South Principal Ed McDonough said Emma stood out for the school's guidance counselors because of her strong academics, involvement at school and her outgoing personality.
"We're not worried about you being shy," McDonough joked during a recent interview in his office.
Emma said she "felt honored" when told about the selection during concert choir rehearsal. She does not know yet where she will volunteer on Saturday, but will join hundreds of other students at the State House before venturing out for three hours of service in the afternoon.
Along with her mother Diane and father Greg, Emma has a brother named Will who is a sixth grader at South Middle. She looks forward next year in high school to getting involved quickly, perhaps with the student council and Students Against Destructive Decisions.
Emma said that along with the actual volunteering, she most looks forward to getting on the road Saturday morning and meeting new kids with different perspectives, a sort of "reality check."
"It will be really rewarding to make bonds with other kids" even if they last only the length of the project, she said.