Vinnie Rodriguez is a great example of a youth volunteer. Though all of his service has a positive impact, one of Vinnie’s most important community service is his work to help create the FAM2E Program (Fitchburg After-school Math Mentoring Enrichment Program). FAM2E is a mentoring partnership that includes elementary and middle school students at the 21st Century After-School Program run at Fitchburg public schools.
During May 2006 Vinnie decided he wanted to expand the Step Up to Excellence Program. Step Up opened him to a whole new world that he didn’t previously experience. He sought the opportunity to assist the Montachusett Area Rotary Club in building a home for a family in Ecuador through the Habitat for Humanity Program. He and his friends in the Step Up program did various drives and events to support other large communities, including a drive to send care packages for the troops in Iraq and a memorial garden for the students in their high school who had passed away. He realized the importance of the benefits he had received, and Vinnie wanted to see more students get this kind of help. He discussed the cost to make the program grow and he suggested a bake sale and other fund raising activities as a way Step Up Students could help.
Vinnie would periodically talk about this topic with his mentors, and they became aware of an opportunity to establish a mentoring program. After discussions with the Montachusett Opportunity Council (MOC), Vinnie decided to create an after school program for elementary and middle school students that would utilize high school students in a mentoring role. Vinnie’s many hours of work inspire, develop, and work in this program to be a significant contribution to the youth of Fitchburg.
The Program expanded rapidly and by June 2006 over 800 hours of mentoring community service had been completed by more than 30 high school students. Vinnie graduated and went on to Wentworth Institute in Boston, but the Program expanded to 4 sites with 45 students working over 1200 hours by June of 2007.
This fall FAM2E Program expanded to five sites and even more students are participating. They project more than 1600 hours of mentoring by about 50 students for the current school year. The FAM2E Program is now a listed activity in the Fitchburg High School Handbook. The 21st Century sites service about 300 students with close to 60% qualifying for Free or Reduced Lunch Programs. Vinnie has mentored during his holiday breaks and stays connected to the program.
Vinnie is now majoring on a full scholarship (with the help of Step Up) in his second year in Management at Wentworth Institute of Technology. He started his first year with a bang when he became President of his building’s Residence Hall Association. He said, “it was frustrating because when I reached college, I wanted to serve the community right away, but was unfamiliar with the area, so didn’t know where to help.” That impression soon changed. He participated in an Alternative Spring Break in New Orleans, where he and 30 other Wentworth students worked on reviving a home devastated by Hurricane Katrina into the People’s Environmental Center, which would test the ground for toxins brought by storms and teach people how to treat their homes to combat them.
In his second year, Vinnie became President of the Multicultural Student Association and, as a big speaker for diversity, is working hard to educate his members on how to become more effective leaders. He took on the responsibility of being a member of the Big Brothers Association of Massachusetts Bay, in which he currently serves as the “Big Brother” of an 11-year old child named William who wants the presence of a role model.
Vinnie dedicated his summer to being a Residential Counselor in the Upward Bound Summer 2007 Program, where he tutored and monitored high school students, and facilitated programs for them. He also squeezed into the same summer being an Orientation Leader to make new students at Wentworth more comfortable. Has he stopped serving his community? No, Vinnie plans to participate in Project Bread’s 20-mile Walk for Hunger with friends in his college in May and hopes to complete the full route.