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Humans of the Berkshires Initiative Celebrates Local Youth

Berkshire County has adapted the successful Humans of New York social media campaign to create a countywide forum that celebrates the rich lives of local youth as well as the abundant, positive, intergenerational interactions in the area.

Humans of New York was started by photographer Brandon Stanton in 2010 as an effort to catalog New York City’s eclectic residents, posting a simple photograph of the subject alongside their story. The initiative has blossomed into a movement, having been recreated around the world to celebrate the diversity and positivity of copious communities.

We know that 70% of 8th graders in Berkshire County do not feel appreciated by their neighbors or community, and this only increases in 10th and 12th grade.  Humans of the Berkshires is a campaign aimed at featuring the diverse talents and interests of young people of the county in response to this data. The project was created by Berkshire United Way Positive Youth Development Impact Council and Berkshire Children and Families with input and participation from many county based youth and other organizations and community partners.  By showcasing the rich and diverse lives that youth lead in the county, the aim is that adults will see them as active participants, and that youth will see that the adults appreciate their contributions to the community.

 “After looking over the Prevention Needs Assessment (PNA) data for Berkshire County, we realized the need for a way to recognize youth for their contributions to the community,” said Nataly Garzon, coordinator of positive youth development at Berkshire United Way. “Youth doing constructive, positive things for the community are so often overlooked in favor of the negative stories, so we wanted to create a platform for the youth contributing to the growth of our community to be celebrated. Our goal is for Humans of the Berkshires to be run by Berkshire County residents, giving everyone a chance to share their voice.”  Michelle Bienvenue, school adjustment counselor at Taconic High School said, “I think this project is so great because we as school personnel get to see all the incredible things students do all day long, but not everyone else does.”

Kathleen Toomey, highland street AmeriCorps ambassador of mentoring at Berkshire Children and Families’ Family Resource Center commented, “The Humans of the Berkshires project has been incredibly inspiring to me in many ways. I’ve been following the Humans of New York page almost since its beginning. Adapting the model here in Berkshire County has given me a chance to learn about amazing and interesting youth. Each interview leaves me in awe of the diverse, hard-working students who exist in the Berkshires. They are driven, reflective, and doing their best to find their way in the world.”

Humans of the Berkshires launched May 25, 2016 with a profile of Mason Papirio of Pittsfield High School who said, “My family inspires me a lot because they always motivate me and push me to better myself. My mom is a huge inspiration in my life. She comes to all my wrestling matches, football and lacrosse games. Right now she is working two jobs to support me and my sister and pay all the bills, and it is just an inspiration…one day I hope to help my mom out, let her retire well, and treat her well.”

Members of the community are encouraged to like the Humans of the Berkshires Facebook page and follow Humans of the Berkshires on Instagram.  To nominate an individual between the ages of 14 and 22 for Humans of the Berkshires, please email humansoftheberkshires@gmail.com.

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