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Project LEARN volunteer just kept giving

By Elizabeth Dobbins

edobbins@ lowellsun. com

LOWELL » It started as a summer job, but when summer ended Alison Forchoh didn’t want to leave.

“ Can I come and help you guys?” she remembers asking. “ Can I come and volunteer with you guys?”

Forchoh, now a senior at Lowell High School, worked last summer in a paid internship through MassHire for Project LEARN. She continued on through this fall and spring as a volunteer with occasional paid work.

Project LEARN Executive Director LZ Nunn said she was impressed by Forchoh’s diligence and thoughtfulness.

“ She’s good humored,” Nunn

VOLUNTEERS » 6A

Alison Forchoh, right, joins student leaders and facilitators for Project Learn, from left, Irene Kirabo, Hoang Truc Kim, Luis Raul Raudales and Jaeda Turner. All five are students at Lowell High School.

COURTESY PROJECT LEARN

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said. “ She can talk to anybody. She is measured and thoughtful in her approach to challenges.”

Forchoh has been involved at many levels for Project LEARN. She looked for grants for the organization. She manned a table at Lowell Summer Music Series to promote reading. She has also participated in student- faculty discussions on diversity at Lowell High where most faculty are white, but most students are not. “ Getting student input I think is very important especially in education, because we are the most impacted,” she said.

She thought discussing race with the educators might be like “ walking on eggshells,” but said she found them receptive. Forchoh was invited to speak about her experiences with the Project LEARN at their December holiday party, an opportunity she pointed to as a highlight.

“ It was really cool to talk in front of a bunch of adults,” she said.

Next fall, Forchoh plans to attend Harvard University and major in biology.

After her experience with Project LEARN, she said she also hopes to add a concentration on public health.

“ Working with Project LEARN has awakened the part of me that’s very into social justice,” she said.

Forchoh, who is African American, said she has started thinking more frequently about race and its impacts, like different levels of access to resources.

Her inside look at a nonprofit has given her a new respect for the effort it takes to effect change, she said.

“ It’s a process,” she said. “ It takes time.”

Forchoh lives in Pawtucketville and performs in Show Choir. She is also a peer mediator at Lowell High — a program where students help their peers talk through conflicts.

“ What might be super simple to one person, might be an emotionally charged thing to another,” she said.

Nunn said Forchoh is welcome to continue volunteering as long as she is willing and available.

She said she sees a bright future for the 18year- old.

“ She’s going to do well in whatever she wants,” Nunn said.

Lowell High student Alison Forchoh facilitates a meeting of educators and school leaders for the Portrait of a Graduate community launch event on March 5.

COURTESY PROJECT LEARN

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