Metta Students Foundation grows, seeks community involvement

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The Metta Students Foundation is looking for a few good teens.

Metta means love, compassion, kindness, empathy and caring, and each month during the school year the non-profit gives $1,000 to a Rhode Island or Massachusetts teen that has shared metta or performed an act of kindness.

Norm Kelly created the foundation after being inspired by the story of two local students. Stephen Carroll of Johnston has lived his life in a wheelchair, born with cerebral palsy. His family raised him to be independent, and through the years he has overcome many obstacles.

In his senior year in 2012, he wanted to go to prom. When 16-year-old Tayler Boardman-Kelly, a junior from North Providence, heard that Stephen had no one to go with, she wanted to be his date. On prom night, Stephen’s fellow students voted him prom king.

“It’s the spirit of that 2012 prom night … that made me want to create a foundation,” Kelly said, “one that didn’t reward the best athlete or smartest kid, but one that acknowledges their compassion.”

Since the foundation’s October 2012 inception, it has handed out 17 awards of $1,000. A Cranston teen who created his own non-profit foundation to help the homeless, two opposing high school basketball teams who made a student’s dream come true and a Central Falls teen who saved the life of a 13-year-old girl at Oakland Beach in Warwick have been among the recipients.

“The stories are all unique and amazing,” Kelly said. “But the common denominator with all of our Metta winners is care and compassion. It has truly been a humbling experience to witness these acts of kindness, and we want to acknowledge even more high school students.”

Kelly said his business partners at Software Quality Associates, Rob Lanza of Wrentham and Mark McPhillips of Cranston, have been “instrumental” in funding the foundation and expanding its reach into Massachusetts.

Students can be nominated for awards through the foundation’s website, www.mettastudents.org. Visitors to the site can also donate or become a sponsor.

Kelly also urged members of the community to follow the foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

“Even just joining our pages helps share metta,” he said.

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