#MassSTAR2017 Day One Recap

It’s official, fam – Day One is in the books! Shout out to New England weather for finally getting its act together and gracing us with blue skies for this morning’s drop off. Thank you to the dedicated drivers who woke up early to drop off our delegates, and kudos to the delegates themselves for arriving with big smiles, ready to dive into the conference.


We’ll be posting nightly updates recapping our daily activities, so check back each day to hear how things went!

Confluence is a MassSTAR tradition – it’s the first time we’re meeting each other, and right off the bat, we get the energy going. This is our opportunity to meet as many people as possible and to begin to get to know each other.

First Group Meeting
Throughout the weekend, delegates work together in groups of 8-9 sophomores, with one junior and one senior facilitator per group. This year’s groups were named after a space theme, and during this first meeting, groups design their sign and brainstorm their group roll call.

Keynote Speaker: Representative Adrian Madaro, 1st Suffolk District
Representative Adrian Madaro of the 1st Suffolk District came to speak to our delegates about how he came to be elected to represent his hometown of East Boston in the Massachusetts House of Representatives while still in his 20s. Representative Madaro touched on all five points of the MassSTAR curriculum in his speech – collaboration, initiative, intentionality, responsibility, and respect – and shared some of the ways he worked to achieve his goals. The delegates had a chance to ask questions at the end of the speech, and their queries showed insight and sophistication.

Walk the Line
Our Director of Alumni Relations, Alex Gomez (MYL’10), led our first workshop of the weekend. Walk the Line helps our delegates to learn more about each other while preserving a safe space. Through the comfort of anonymity, delegates shared their honest feelings about their communities, their experiences, and their histories.

Energizers & Games
Our days are jam-packed at MassSTAR, and it’s important that we break up the day, so between speakers we took the opportunity to play some games and get moving. These games serve as energizers while also helping our delegates to get more comfortable with their peers and their environment.

Dynamic Influence: Robert Hackenson Jr.
To mix things up, we brought in Robert Hackenson Jr., an “edutainer” with a background in magic whose dynamic presentation skills kept our delegates engaged while also helping them to learn how they can take control of their own minds and outlook. Robert believes when it comes to speaking it’s more than just what you say, it’s how you deliver the messages.  If the audience is bored, the important messages are lost – and our delegates certainly were not bored!

Exploring the Communities We Build – “The Ice Cream Game”
The best part of any meal is dessert, so after our dinner break, we came together for another MassSTAR tradition – Exploring the Communities We Build, fondly knowns as the Ice Cream Game. Our facilitator, Rosette Cataldo, is an alum of the MYL Foundation and has been running this workshop for us for over twenty years. During the activity delegates compete to see who can build the best community with the resources they have at hand – and the debrief is always one of the highlights of the weekend. This workshop is truly a once in a lifetime experience – once you’ve participated, you can never again experience the workshop as a participant. It’s impossible to explain the program in words, so ask a delegate about their experience – we promise they’ll have quite a bit to say!

A-WAY Slam Poetry Team

As our final presentation of the day, the A-WAY slam poetry team, a team formed of Massachusetts high school students, joined us to share their words with our delegates. Their performance sparked some great discussions in our nightly debrief. We hope their poetry inspires our delegates to try their hands at poetry of their own!

Debriefs & Lights Out
Before returning to the dorms, our groups gathered for a debrief to talk through the events of the day. We build these debriefs periodically into our schedule to create the processing space for our delegates to talk through the presentations they’ve seen and the workshops they’ve participated in. Our facilitators raise questions and guide delegates through the topics we’ve covered.

We had an awesome first day and we can’t wait to see what else our delegates bring to the table tomorrow! Check back later in the weekend for our Day Two and Day Three updates!


8 Questions w/ Renee Semple ’15

sempleContinuing our series of “get-to-know-you” interviews with the MYL fam! This time, we learn what was so funny about Plymouth Rock (I don’t know if I get it.)

Who are you? 

My name is Renee Semple and I’m an alumni from 2015. Since my experience at MassSTAR in 2015 I’ve made sure to keep in touch with the organization; on February 13th, 2016 I attended the one day conference at Brandeis University, on June 2nd, 3rd,4th, and 5th in 2016 I had joined the MassSTAR staff as a junior facilitator, and on June 27th, 2016 I had participated in an MYL Foundation volunteer opportunity where five of us helped clean the Charles River in Newton.

How did you first become involved with the MYL foundation?
I first became involved in the MYL foundation when my high school’s guidance office nominated me to represent Canton High School’s sophomore class in the 2015 MassSTAR Conference.

What emoji best reflects you as a person?
The rock-on/punk hand emoji represents me as a person because I’m always up for adventure and doing new, cool things. I also make that hand gesture a lot ☺

What’s your favorite point of the STAR?
Initiative is my favorite point on the STAR because it’s what helps lead to change; a lot of people have amazing ideas, but only those who take the initiative will ever make change happen.

What does it mean to “be a good citizen” to you?
Being a good citizen means that you’re respectful and helpful. Being respectful can cover a lot of the role of being a good citizen; respect is something that helps us set up the foundations for relationships within the community and those relationships in turn can help toward creating a sense of cooperation that helps the community function as a whole. Being helpful branches out to willingness as well. If you’re helpful and willing, you can give a lot of yourself to your community which can really lead to change.

What’s your favorite holiday?
My favorite holiday is Halloween!! I love horror movies and scary stuff!

Tell us your favorite MassSTAR story!
 My favorite story is from this past conference. I had roomed with my friend Kira, and Kira and I were both junior facilitators. We had this running joke with our friend, Jess, about Plymouth Rock. So, Kira and I decided to gather up stones and put piles in front of the delegates’ doors with little papers that said ‘1620’. Our plan was to shout “PLYMOUTH ROCK” in the morning to help wake up the delegates. But, once morning rolled around, we found our rocks cleaned up and gone. We were devastated. Later on we found out who cleaned them up and discovered that there was a big misunderstanding between us and it ended in a fit of laughter.

Do you have any advice for recent (or not so recent) MYL Alumni?
My advice is this: get involved. Get involved in whatever you can get your hands on, whether it’s through your school, community, MYLF, something you saw on social media, etc. Volunteering is a passion of mine and I’d love it to become a passion of many more people. Giving your time to others is the greatest gift in this world, so I highly encourage alumni to get involved in volunteer opportunities or other community service projects.

8 Questions w/ Alex Gomez ’10

gomezContinuing our series of “get-to-know-you” interviews with the MYL fam! Alex, surprising exactly no one, provided a Britney Spears gif. In fairness, I did ask for it. 

Who are you?
Alex Gomez ’10

How did you first become involved with the MYL foundation?
I attended the 3 day conference then stayed involved with the Alumni Association, attending meetings and volunteer events. Later I became Alumni Association President and a member of the Conference Planning Committee (CPC).

What do you do now?
Currently I am the Director of Alumni Relations on the MYL Foundation Board of Directors. When not volunteering with MYL Foundation I work at TechBoston Academy in Dorchester working for an Educational Non-Profit called New Classrooms that changes the way Math is taught in Middle Schools around the country. I also work at a public library in Hingham, MA.

What’s your patronus?
A snowy owl. R.I.P. Hedwig

How do you carry the MYL values with you in your work or school?
I’m always reminding myself, in addition to where reminding myself of where I last left my phone, of the importance of intentionality and collaboration. I truly believe that you learn the most from others and their experiences, more than in a lecture or textbook. There’s an infinite wealth of knowledge and experiences out in the world and how I interact with those in school and at work is all rooted in my core belief that the experiences I share and that are shared with me will shape me and those I encounter and work with. I always try and create a community wherever I go, a community of learning, of shared experiences; a community of love for learning and love for other humans that live, have lived, or will live on this planet.

What gif best reflects you?
There are several GIFs out there of Britney Spears making faces during her tenure on America’s Got Talent. Those GIFs are me. I am those GIFs. Here is one of those GIFs.


My Idol.

What does it mean to “be a good citizen” to you?
Taking time to actually learn about what’s going on in the world today. Even if it means jumping on buzzfeed or the apple news app and scrolling through the news headlines. It means taking the time to know there are other countries, states, and even neighborhoods in your community that are all going through similar experiences as well as totally different ones. The world is WILD and being a good citizen, to me, means being an active participant in it, always ready to know, learn, experience and grow more.

Do you have any advice for recent MYL Alumni?
Read my answer to the previous question and DO IT. Also, get involved with the MYL Foundation. Help shape the lives of others around you. Take the MYL Foundation values and share them in your community and the communities you explore as you grow in both age and experiences.

MassSTAR 2016: Sunday Recap


Sunday at MassSTAR is a time for reflection, but also for looking to the future! On Sunday, our newly inducted MYL Foundation alumni spent time thinking and planning for what their futures might hold.

What’s Next Panel

A diverse panel speakers sat down and opened up for a Q&A about life after high school, and all the different paths open to our delegates. The panelists included two MYL alumni, Summer Moukalled (MYL’06) and Giulia Ensing (MYL’13), plus Alex Vanscoy, a law student and US military veteran; and Jill Reitzell, from Lasell College Admissions. The panelists spoke on steps for success, ways to overcome challenges, and shared stories of their experiences. Our favorite question: “How do you define greatness?”

Gratitude in Action

Reinforcing the theme of respect, responsibility, and initiative, the delegates spent time writing messages of gratitude to all of the donors, sponsors, and supporters of the MassSTAR conference.

Regional Action Planning

Delegates split up by region to begin developing projects they can work on together to make a difference in their communities. Delegates discussed issues that face their communities, and began planning all kinds of service projects. Some topics that were brought up include homelessness, tolerance in schools, special education – and so, so many more.


Closing Ceremonies

We marched into DeWitt Hall at Lasell with our spirits high! We first heard from three tremendous speakers. First up was Erica Ferrell, who so generously ran the Boston Marathon as a charity runner and raised over $5500 for MassSTAR 2016 – Erica reinforced that so many things are possible with passion and a support system. Then, representatives from the Greater Federation of Women’s Clubs of Massachusetts presented the inaugural Marta DiBenedetto Leadership Scholarship to Michaelah Nunes (MYL ’14).

Finally, we heard from our closing keynote speaker, Corey DePina, Youth Development and Performance Manager at ZUMIX, who delivered an OUTSTANDING speech about focus, perseverance, and movement.

To close out the day, we heard from one delegate from each of our groups, reporting on how they and their group experienced the weekend. Emotions ran high and all of the delegates shared their appreciation for one another, for the weekend, and shared ideas for what might come next!

We are so proud and pleased to have spent the weekend with [95] passionate, driven, and persistent young leaders. We have no doubt they will rise to the challenge and make huge waves in their communities, in their schools, and in the world. Thank you, MassSTAR 2016!