Project Purple sponsors Westford talent show

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Westford’s Second Annual Talent Show participants in Abbot Elementary School

By Madhu Kaushik
Staff Writer

On Thursday, May 15th, a little after 7 p.m., the audience in the Abbot Gymnasium quieted and settled in their spots. Performers readied themselves, the lights dimmed, and Westford’s 2nd Annual Talent Show began.

Sponsored by Project Purple, through Westford Against Substance Abuse, WASA, the event consisted of about ten acts. They ranged from singers, piano players, and skilled dancers, to unicycling and hula-hooping acts.

The talent show was divided into two categories: ages 10 and under, and 11 to 14 years old.

The show’s sponsor, Project Purple, is an initiative of SADD, or Students Against Destructive Decisions. The project stemmed from the Herren Project created by NBA star Chris Herren. Students who choose to lead a substance-free lifestyle show their choice by wearing Project Purple Shirts.

Judging from the smoothness of the show, one would think that it was organized by staff and teachers. However, the talent show was, in fact, the work of two interns, Ali Luther and Breanne Sullivan, for Project Purple and WASA. Both advisors and interns hoped to collect enough money from the event to bring in Chris Herren himself to speak to the school.

Luther and Sullivan were also two of Project Purple’s first active members. They began planning this fundraiser about halfway through the year. With the help of health teacher Melanie Jozokos and special education teacher Laurie Rybicki, the students created this final project of theirs in an effort to raise money for their organization. They posted flyers, contacted administration, and spread the word of the event throughout the elementary and middle schools.

“It was great. It ran very smoothly,” said Jozokos.

Surprisingly enough, their effort elicited forty responses from parents of willing participants. Due to time constraints, however, they had to turn down a large portion of elementary and middle schoolers.

“We had to turn people away because there was no possible way to hold forty acts in one night. So we did tell people that ‘sorry your kid couldn’t participate,’ and we got angry emails the next day,” said Luther.

Regardless, both interns and Jozokos were more than pleased with the talent show, and the five hundred dollars that was raised. As the group expands, Jozokos and her interns hope for more fundraisers, and to change the culture at WA.

“We want people to know that it’s okay for them to say no to drugs and alcohol. We want to change the culture from having it be an accepted part of high school to something that’s not accepted, because it shouldn’t be,” said Jozokos.

Though the organization looks to fund more events like the talent show, Luther wants Project Purple’s overall message to be conveyed.

“They can stand up. They can have a voice. If their voice is loud enough, people will listen,” said Luther.