Sign me up for updates. Signup now

You are here

Positive Youth Development

Berkshire United Way is collaborating with community partners across the county to change the environment in which youth live, supporting them to make healthier decisions which will lead them to graduate high school with a vision for their future. We collect and analyze data to pin point what risk and protective factors are currently influencing our youth, and how best to support them.

Based on the surveys and research, we know that alcohol and drug use, along with teen pregnancy, increases the likelihood of youth dropping out of high school. That is why Berkshire United Way is encouraging youth to make healthy decisions to ensure high school graduation. We also know that some youth who graduate high school may not have a solid college or career plan. To combat this, we invest in after-school programs, college and career work readiness programs, and mentoring programs.

To date, we've made an impact across the county, including:

Teen birth rates have declined significantly.  Since 2009, there has been a 63% reduction in the countywide teen birth rate.

Since 2006:

  • 8th grade 30-day marijuana use has declined 46%
  • 8th grade 30-day alcohol use declined 69% countywide
  • 10th grade 30-day alcohol use has declined 43%
  • 12th grade 30-day alcohol use has declined 21%
  • Tobacco use has declined in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders by 59%

We accomplish this work through support of the Positive Youth Development Impact Council, made up of community leaders, providers, educators, experts and more. We use a Collective Impact model, which means there are multiple players working together to solve complex issues.

Berkshire United Way also works on the Berkshire Youth Development Project collaborative.

If you have any questions or concerns, or are interested in giving your time, talent or gifts to the positive youth development goal area, please contact Kat Toomey, Coordinator of Positive Youth Development  at 413-442-6948 x 15 or

For a list of funded programs in Positive Youth Development, click here.

"The biggest thing I've learned is to believe in myself and work as a team. It was hard for me to overcome my stage fright and being anti-social but I enjoyed making new friends."
  -Local teen

Community Investments in Positive Youth Development

Your gift to Berkshire United way funds the following programs and coalitions: 

Alchemy Initiative

  • Roots Rising

Barrington Stage Company

  • Playwright Mentoring Project

Berkshire Children and Families

  • Kids 4 Harmony
  • Pittsfield Community Connection

Berkshire Family YMCA

  • Bright Futures

Berkshire Theatre Group

  • BTG Plays! After School Program

Dalton Community Recreation Association

  • CRA Mentoring Program
  • CRA Out of School Program

Flying Cloud Institute

  • Young Women In Science

Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center

  • Girls Inc. of the Berkshires


  • Community Work Initiative

MCLA Foundation/Berkshire Compact for Education

  • Berkshire County Goes to College

Railroad Street Youth Project

  • RSYP Mentoring Program

Shakespeare & Company

  • Shakespeare in the Courts


  • Berkshire Outreach Program

The Christian Center

  • Marilyn Hamilton Sports Literacy Program

The Salvation Army

  • Bridging the Gap between Youth and Community Services

Other Community Investments in Positive Youth Development

Berkshire Youth Development Project

Positive Youth Development Impact Council

Positive Youth Development Impact Council

The Positive Youth Development Impact Council is a Berkshire United Way countywide, community-led coalition that aims to increase youth access to positive, healthy opportunities in our communities. Using a collective impact model, our population goals for the coalition are to increase high school graduation rates, reduce teen pregnancy, reduce substance abuse, increase protective factors, and lower risk factors. We are realizing the importance of building future college and career plans for youth to address these goals through the following strategies: 

Coalition Strategies

  • Building Awareness on the importance of positive youth development
  • Providing Professional Development opportunities for youth workers
  • Improving Resource Coordination between agencies to improve access to resources for youth and families
  • Creating opportunities for Family Engagement and parent education
  • Connecting Multiple Reinforcing Activities together to reach our goals

Humans of the Berksh​ires

Since we started conducting the Prevention Needs Assessment Survey in 2007, a critical data point that has always stood out - our youth do not feel that their community and neighbors recognize their successes and are supporting their aspirations.  

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 the Berkshires is a campaign aimed at featuring the diverse talents and interests of young people of the county in response to this data. 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.

Michelle Bienvenue, school adjustment counselor at Taconic High School has 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 now everyone else does too!"

Humans of the Berkshires launched in May 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 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 25 for Humans of the Berkshires, please email

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 Berkshire United Way’s Positive Youth Development efforts. 


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.

Prevention Needs Assessment Survey

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.

The survey asks many questions aimed at quantifying the prevalence of substance use as well as other risk and protective factors that may contribute to those rates.  You can view the results of the 2017 PNAS HERE.

The next PNAS is anticipated to happen in the Fall of 2018.

Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNAS)
The Risk and Protective Factor Model of Substance Abuse Prevention

Objectives of the Berkshire Youth Development Project 

  • Coordinate, through a regional approach, and at times autonomous approach, activities to drive the sharing of services, resources, knowledge, and collaborative undertakings.
  • Promote the use of developmental outcomes and proven methods of prevention that increase protective factors and decrease risk factors of Berkshire county youth.
  • Increase meaningful opportunities for youth to build skills, network with peers, develop leadership skills, and experience personal growth

Separate task forces working within BYDP work on the annual 411 in the 413 Youth Conference, PNAS administration, and training conferences for youth workers.