Berkshire Youth Development Project
Berkshire County has three regionally-based organizations, which convene key stakeholders through Community Coalitions and other collaborations to address issues that impact youth: The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Railroad Street Youth Project and the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership under the leadership of the Berkshire United Way’s Youth Development efforts. Prior to the development of the Berkshire Youth Development Project (BYDP), there was no countywide structure to support their work together. Thinking about this, the leadership of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership, the Railroad Street Youth Project (hereinafter Principle Partners), and the former South Berkshire Community Coalition were invited by the Berkshire County Legislative Delegation in January 2006 to consider a Berkshire County project that would support youth programs in each region, serve as a catalyst for countywide approaches to broader social issues, and provide a forum where other partners could collaborate on common projects. As such, our collaborative of coalitions partners with Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Health Systems and the Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office. Partners meet monthly to discuss program goals, share best practices, plan countywide initiatives and network with other agencies where appropriate. Biennially, in collaboration with Bach-Harrison LLC, the partners, with support from various mental health and social service agencies, review and administer the Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNAS) to students in grades 8, 10 and 12 across the county. Separate task forces within the BYDP work on the annual 411 in the 413 Youth Conference, PNAS administration, and training conferences for law enforcement, youth workers, community members and owners/servers of liquor establishments.
The BYDP seeks to promote positive youth development strategies and activities throughout Berkshire County that will lead to the successful transition of youth to adulthood.
Goals of the Berkshire Youth Development Project
- Leverage resources for youth development initiatives in North, Central and South County.
- Coordinate through a regional approach significant, but splintered, initiatives throughout the Berkshires to spur a sharing of services, knowledge and collaborative undertakings.
- Focus on proven substance abuse and other risky behavior prevention tactics to avoid extremely costly alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) treatment interventions.
- Stimulate greater investments of time, resources, and commitment from the private sector and non-profit agencies to support youth development initiatives throughout the county.
The Wahconah Ambassadors, one of the youth leadership groups, have worked over the past three years specifically to raise awareness on the topics of teen dating violence, stress reduction and resilience. Each year, students go through leadership training with Nakeida Bethel-Smith from the Elizabeth Freeman Center. This past year, the Wahconah Amassadors focused on promoting resiliency. They created a bulletin board with appropriate quotes, and created a social norms campaign featuring their teachers to promote less substance use. To further hone in the message, they raised a thousand dollars to bring Casey McQuillen and her You Matter tour to come to Wahconah to speak and perform for the students, reminding them of their importance and how to navigate life's "bumps."