We’ve got this.
It’s these three words that continue to leave Matt Bartos and Tammy Leary amazed and proud.
Mr. Bartos, an English teacher at Chelmsford High School, and Ms. Leary, a Counselor at the Hawthorne House, are the long-time advisors to Leadership In Motion Everywhere (LIME), a student-run club that immerses its members in vital causes and in situations of need – often dire – while teaching leadership skills, problem solving and collaboration.
“Tammy and I often find ourselves being bossed around,” Mr. Bartos quipped. “The kids are in charge. It’s wonderful to see.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic has curtailed most activities for schools across the country, the students who make up LIME are busier than ever, seizing the opportunities the crisis has put forth. Since the start of the academic year, the group has made certain area children enjoyed some semblance of trick-or-treating; helped stock the shelves of a local non-profit; and helped deliver hundreds of poinsettias for a group overwhelmed by demand.
“The group has its signature events, but at the same time it responds to any call,” Mr. Bartos said. “It’s just part of their DNA. The kids look for opportunities to do more good.”
Lately, such opportunities are not hard to come by.
Recently the Chelmsford Booster Club, which raises funds for Chelmsford athletics, had sold nearly 500 poinsettias and called upon LIME to help distribute them on Dec. 2. LIME members were happy to step in with its members working in shifts. They wrapped each in plastic sheathing, attached a ‘thank you’ sticker and delivered safely to folks waiting curbside.
“Keeping families safe was on the forefront of everyone’s mind,” said Jamie Campo, President of the Chelmsford Booster Club. “Not only did these amazing students from LIME support the inventory preparation, they assisted families with secure safe curbside pick-up. The students from LIME are an truly an amazing group of young people.”
With an audience already in place, LIME saw another opportunity: Use the poinsettia pickup to collect essential goods for The Wish Project, necessities such as clothing and blankets, wipes and sanitizer, gift cards, diapers, toothbrushes and more.
“We had a student with a Honda Odyssey, and it was filled,” Mr. Bartos said.
Lori Yutzy, Project Manager at The Wish Project, was overwhelmed at the donation. “We’re helping more than 100 people each week,” she said. “With Covid-19 unemployment at an all-time high, calls come in daily with needs for toiletries, coats and clothing. This donation was great and much needed. It will help a week’s worth of clientele, if not more.”
LIME stages several events each year – the 24-Hour Relay and Chelmsford In Tune are among their most successful – to benefit local organizations. In October, it was to host a haunted cabin for The Paul Center’s ‘Haunt for a Cure,’ to raise money for autism. When the event was cancelled due to the pandemic, LIME members came up with an alternative: a socially-distanced drive-in trick-or-treat event at the high school.
LIME invited other CHS clubs to set up tables, dress in costume and distribute candy (15 clubs accepted the invitation). Scheduled for Friday afternoon, Oct. 30, LIME was forced to postpone to Saturday, Oct. 31 due to the rare October snowstorm.
The quick change was emblematic of what LIME does: pivot, adjust, do what it needs to make it happen. Alas, they didn’t know what to expect. “It turned out to be ridiculously successful,” said Mr. Bartos, who estimated the effort drew well over 500 cars. “It was two and a half hours of wall-to-wall traffic. Fifteen minutes into the event, I was on the phone with the Chelmsford Police Department asking for a detail.”
“All these clubs had to run out to buy more candy,” Ms. Leary said.
These successful events are the byproduct of what Ms. Leary and Mr. Bartos are trying to instill in the students: working in committees and subcommittees, the experience of serving on a board, and working with outside organizations. “We want to get the kids to create good meeting agendas, to work independently and to solve problems,” Mr. Bartos noted.
In the past, LIME has had anywhere between 20-30 members. On a recent video conference, however, Ms. Leary counted more than 40 students in this year’s group. She attributes the increase to the current climate: CHS students are looking to get involved and to help those in need. After the wildly successful drive-up trick-or-treating, she told her LIME students that other people and groups will lean on them for help.
The Booster Club was quick to reach out. There will certainly be others.
“Sometimes you meet with students who have great ideas, but don’t know how to follow through,” said Ms. Leary. “They have this quiet leadership about them. We stand and support them, but they’re doing all the work, which is the purpose of LIME. You can see them gaining more confidence.”