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Will Finds Opportunity to "Learn by Giving" at Framingham State


Will has been a part of School on Wheels for a long time, now. His story began eight years ago when Founder and Executive Director Cheryl Opper handed Will a new backpack at the Holiday Inn in Brockton when he was just 14 years old. Will and his family became homeless the summer before his freshman year at Brockton High. They were placed at a local hotel with many other families who were also experiencing homelessness. One evening a few weeks before school started, a woman (Cheryl Opper) stopped by the hotel to give the kids new backpacks filled with supplies. Will said this gift of a new backpack motivated him to work harder in school and become a better student because he felt like someone truly cared about him and his education.

Over the past eight years, Will has grown to become a successful young man of whom SOWMA is very proud. He remains focused on his education at Framingham State University, where he is finishing his sophomore year majoring in sociology. Will enrolled this past semester in Dr. Ira Silver’s Nonprofit Giving course at FSU. The class researches nonprofit organizations in the Boston area and selects one to receive a $10,000 grant awarded by the Learning by Giving Foundation.

Will’s personal experience as a SOWMA High School Plus student motivated him to nominate School on Wheels for the grant consideration. Dr. Silver’s class visited the SOWMA headquarters in April to learn about the program’s life-changing impact on the education of students facing the challenges of homelessness. Will shared his personal story with his classmates during their visit. “He made the work that SOWMA does—and the potential impact of our $10,000 grant—real for the rest of the students in the class. When the class weighed the impacts this money could have for different organizations under consideration for funding, all they had to do was listen to Will and his powerful story to know that SOWMA is changing lives,” said Dr. Silver.

Will was thrilled to deliver the good news to the woman who had handed him a new backpack eight years ago at a hotel in Brockton: that SOWMA had been selected to receive the $10,000 grant award. Opper said, “I could not be more proud to see how Will is thriving in college and to see how he has become someone so committed to helping others in the process.” This summer SOWMA will deliver over 1,300 new backpacks to children impacted by homelessness.

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