Alex Morse says a lot of young people think they have to go somewhere exotic, whether it's a third-world country or a big cosmopolitan city, to make a difference. But he believes people could dramatically improve the world if they thought more about giving back somewhere else – their own backyards.
Mr. Morse will soon be testing his own theory. On Jan. 3, the 22-year-old takes over as mayor of Holyoke, Mass., his struggling hometown, which will make him one of the youngest municipal chief executives in the country.
"You don't have to go far from where you started," says Morse.
Morse, who graduated from Brown University in May 2011, knew as early as his freshman year in college that he wanted to return to Holyoke and run for mayor. He says he gets a sense of fulfillment from working in the town where he was born that he hasn't found in other activities, including serving three years at City Hall in Providence, R.I. Holyoke (pop. 40,000) has a depressed economy, high crime, and struggling schools.
"I've always noticed Holyoke has a lot of possibility," says Morse, who beat out a veteran local politician to win the post in November. "It just needs leadership, and I wanted to be that person."
Morse grew up as an active volunteer, serving two terms as student representative for the Holyoke School Committee and founding Holyoke For All, a local nonprofit group. "It's important to never forget where you come from and how to give back," he says.
– Whitney Eulich
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