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White Brook Middle School student in Easthampton chosen as statewide youth ‘ambassador’

White Brook Middle School has a new ambassador.

Eighth-grader Allison Christopher has been chosen to represent the school in the second annual, statewide Project 351 Town Hall slated for Jan. 26 in Boston.

The Project, launched two years ago by Gov. Deval Patrick, aims to inspire students to participate in community service. Youth ambassadors, who represent the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns, are chosen by their schools based on their leadership and citizenship activities.

White Brook Principal Allison Rebello said Christopher has a stellar record in those areas.

“She’s in our chorus and is also a peer leader in our Talk it Out mediators group,” Rebello said. “She’s also volunteered at community dinners and was a member of our Student Senate last year.”

The 351 youth ambassadors, who hold those titles for a calendar year, are invited to participate in four local days of service, either in their own communities or with others across the state. For example, last year’s ambassadors worked on “spring greening” days held in more than 60 Massachusetts communities, collecting used clothing for the Cradles to Crayons organization for low-income and homeless children. Students chosen for the project have also hosted drives for care packages sent to members of the U.S. military serving overseas.

White Brook administrators are looking forward to ideas for service projects that Christopher will gain from the Town Hall later this month. “We do a lot of service activities but there’s much more we could be doing,” Rebello said.

Heritage potluck

Fans of world cuisine should mark their calendars for White Brook Middle School’s Heritage Potluck.

In a longtime school tradition, families will gather at the school at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 to share dishes, appetizers and desserts representing their cultural and ethnic heritage.

“It’s a great event because students can go through and try out different things,” said Principal Allison Rebello. “We usually pack our entire library.”

The potluck, which began before Rebello was hired four years ago, started with just a handful of families, she said. Last year’s meal drew more than 200 students and family members.

For details about the event, call the main office at White Brook, 529-1530.

Encouraging good behavior

At Maple Elementary School, a new schoolwide effort to encourage good behavior revolves around the themes of respect, responsibility and safety. At the start of the school year, students “learned about what these themes look like in various settings around the school,” wrote Principal Tim Luce, in an item in the most recent school newsletter.

Also at the start of the year, students were given rings with maple leaf charms on them. Students who live up to the three schoolwide themes/goals each month are rewarded with an extra charm for their ring. December’s charm was a snowflake.

Some teachers have asked students to keep the charm rings in their classroom, while others have allowed students to attach them to their backpacks.

“We hope this new initiative in a small way will help the students who live up to the Maple School expectations to feel good about their accomplishments,” Luce wrote.

Lunch payment online

School administrators say a quarter of families whose children are enrolled in the city’s school lunch program are now using an online payment and check-in option.

Andrew Stratton, director of food services for the Easthampton schools, said the system recently moved from MyNutrikids.com to mySchoolBucks.com. It offers parents automatic deposits when their child’s account balance runs low and a secure website where they can make payments and monitor specific school food purchases.

Stratton said the district moved to the mySchoolBucks system after the previous online site was sold to a new owner. Passwords for families will not change.

Stratton said additional information about the transition is available on a “Frequently Asked Questions” page on the mySchoolBucks website.

Barbara Solow can be reached at BSolow@gazettenet.com.

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