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Plugged In hosts Community Engage Evening

Needham Park and Rec, Foundation for Metrowest and the Plugged In Band Program joined together on October 20 to empower youth to help others

On Saturday, October 20, the Plugged In Band Program in Needham held its Community Engage Evening. One of the most important aspects of Plugged In is the emphasis placed on showing students how they can use music to better the world.

The concerts at the end of each session raise money for charitable organizations chosen by the students. At the beginning of each session, Plugged In holds a Community Engage Evening, at which students present to each other charities and causes that are important to them. Students explain how they learned about the charities, what needs are met by the organizations and why they feel it is important to support the organizations. At the end of the evening, they vote to determine the recipient charitable organization for the concert. At this event, Plugged In invites an adult speaker whose career involves creating positive change. The speaker often talks about what they do in their current job, why they like it, what it means to them, and about the path that led them from a teenager to what they are doing now. The goal is to provide role models for the students of ways to include philanthropy in their lives and careers. For this Community Engage Evening, Plugged In invited both adult and youth speakers.

Angela O’Connor, the recreation supervisor at the Needham Park and Recreation Department, spoke about her career working in the sports, education and nonprofit fields. Originally from Pittsfield, Angela attended college at the University of Southern Maine, where she was a two sport athlete and finished with a B.S in both Therapeutic Recreation and Social and Behavioral Sciences, with minors in Coaching, Education, and Health & Fitness. After college, she moved to Colorado and worked for Denver Parks & Recreation for a few years before returning to Maine to teach children at risk for seven years. During her time in Maine, Angela was a teacher, coach and mentor. Angela was positively impacted by her participation in the Boys and Girls Club when she was young. She found mentors along the way and experienced how community service could help her grow. Angela’s motto is "pay it forward."

Emily Lo from Wellesley and Alex Wojcik from Hopkinton, participants in the Foundation for Metrowest’s Youth in Philanthropy Program (YIP), talked with Plugged In students about what they learned about philanthropy from YIP through visiting local organizations, delving into community needs and granting money to causes benefiting youth. Youth in Philanthropy is an experiential leadership development program designed to empower and educate local youth to become our community’s next generation of philanthropists–those who give their time, talent and treasure for the common good.

At the Community Engage event, Plugged In students nominated over 25 causes and charitable organizations to be the beneficiary of their fall session concert on January 18, 19 and 20. After discussion with input from Emily, Alex and Angela, Plugged In students voted to have concert proceeds donated to Friends in Adoption (FIA), a non-profit, licensed agency with a focus on helping people make informed decisions concerning adoption. FIA is committed to open adoption, inclusiveness and providing lifelong support to all members of the adoption circle.

Plugged In is a nonprofit rock band program in Needham teaching kids ages 7-19 about using music to create positive change in the world. In addition to weekly ensemble band classes, private lessons, songwriting workshops, summer camp and community performances, five times a year Plugged In students perform in benefit concerts that raise money for causes and organizations chosen by the students themselves. Plugged In provides a nurturing and supportive community to which young musicians feel a sense of belonging, an opportunity to express and be acknowledged for their musical interests and a chance to use their music to help others around the world. Registration for Plugged In’s spring session and summer camp are open. Registration for private lessons is ongoing. For more information and/or to register, visit

Left to right, first row: Plugged In students Ryan Talon-Kelly from Dedham and Jaden Onwuakor from Foxborough. Second row: Plugged In alumnus Mike Wong from Westwood, YIP students Alex Wojcik from Hopkinton and Emily Lo from Wellesley, Plugged In students TJ Cannistraro from Weston and Maggie Mirembe from Lexington. Back row: Recreation Supervisor at the Needham Park and Recreation Angela O’Connor, Plugged In student Ryan Peterson from Sherborn, Plugged In Co-Founder and Executive Director Sandra Rizkallah, and Plugged In Program Director Dan Croft.

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