Impact Project spreads positivity to Westford community

Melanie Duronio, Co-Managing Editor

Whether it be COVID-19 or political unrest, the past few years have been extremely difficult for many communities, and have left behind feelings of melancholy and stress. With the world seeming to have turned upside-down, it may seem impossible to remain optimistic.

With that in mind, English teachers Lynn Bonakdar and Kyle Kucaj banded together to create a social action project with their senior English classes in late January. The “Impact Project” challenged its students to leave a positive change on the Westford community in just twelve days. The winning group would receive a $100 prize to donate to a charity of their choice.

“In our minds, this project was a way to encourage our students to see their potential and the positive impact they can have on their community and the world,” said Bonakdar. 

Seniors were encouraged to use their creativity and problem-solving skills in order to help a cause they were passionate about. From collecting donations to designing homemade magnets, the groups’ collective efforts amounted to over $4,000 to be given to local charities. Some organizations that have benefited from the WA students’ work include the Buddy Dog Humane Society, House of Hope, Children’s Room, and Westford Food Pantry.

“I was amazed at how quickly the students hit the ground running with this project. As soon as we gave them the opportunity, they dove in! As someone in their thirties, it was impressive to watch them utilize social media and technology in so many different ways […] and they saw such an incredible response to their efforts,” Bonakdar said.

Even WA staff and administration got involved through donating food and clothing items, offering financial help to certain student causes, and posting information onto various Google Classrooms. Bonakdar and Kucaj have both loved watching the influence their project has had on the community.

“The project took on a life of its own!” Bonakdar exclaimed.

The Impact Project was first inspired by Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner, in which one of the major themes is that people can be a catalyst for change. Hosseini’s afterword described a foundation he created to support the human rights crisis in Afghanistan.

“It was the first time I saw an author using his platform to ask his readers […] to actively create change,” Kucaj said. “I wanted students to notice how the author was using his novel not only to create awareness but also a positive change.” 

During the pandemic, both students and teachers were suddenly met with challenges that they had never experienced before, such as online learning, social distancing, and general anxiety regarding COVID. Bonakdar and Kucaj felt it was important for their classrooms to serve as a positive environment for students now more than ever. 

This idea was especially important to senior Vivian Aeder, who created “Spread Kindness WA” for her part of the Impact Project. Wanting to spread positivity on a more personal level, Aeder and her group collected responses from students and parents expressing their gratitude for their favorite staff members. 

The team delivered over 300 hand-written responses and lollipops to teachers all across WA.

“The teachers have worked so hard during COVID and with remote learning. I think they all deserve to know how much they are appreciated. Seeing their reactions was everything [to me],” Aeder said.

Some students are continuing to work on their projects beyond the initial due date, and others are even considering expanding their work into a Senior Capstone. 

Bonakder and Kucaj are delighted by how successful the project was for their students. They are both proud of the hard work and dedication shown by each group and look forward to continuing this project in the coming years.

“These are the kids [we] have been supporting, educating, and cheering on every day for years,” Kucaj said. “They are the outspoken kids, the quiet kids, the hardworking kids, the “school isn’t for me” kids and they accomplished so much in just twelve days!”