PITTSFIELD -- When the seventh-graders were asked to state their career goals on Thursday, student Tyler Williamson shyly raised her hand. Fashion designer or actor, she said.

A new federal grant announced on Thursday may help prepare students like Williamson pursue their career choices while attending Reid Middle School.

Reid was awarded $504,000 in federal money to fund a program designed to provide academic enrichment activities that would help students get ready for and succeed at college and eventually the workforce.

The school will receive $168,000 annually for three years through the Massachusetts 21st Century Community Leaning Center grant program. At Reid, it will take the form of after-school and summertime academic support programs for students in need and complement initiatives run by community organizations.

"The funding will allow the school to target support for students who need it the most," Reid Principal Morgan Williams said.

In South County, the Berkshire Hills Regional School District was awarded $760,000 for a three-year initiative at Muddy Brook Elementary and Monument Valley Middle School. Berkshire Hills will receive $264,000 annually during the first two years of the grant, and $232,000 in the third year, according to Superintendent of Schools Peter Dillon.

"This is really structured to meet the needs of underserved kids, those who are poor or who are struggling academically," Dillon said.

In total, 22 Massachusetts school districts were awarded $5.6 million through the federal Century Community Leaning Center program.

At Reid, the grant was announced at a news conference attended by U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, school officials, students, and representatives of several community organizations sponsoring programs that will be funded by the grant.

"I think the nice part of the $168,000 from the Department of Education is it's going to address some of the issues that changed part of the American family -- after-school hours, what we do during the summer," Neal said. "The challenges that confront all of you are part of the challenges that confront America."

Bianchi thanked Neal for his support saying the programs "enrich the lives of our students."

In Pittsfield, plans call for 90 Reid students to be enrolled in after-school and summer programs for three years. The programs will have a particular focus on writing, listening, and science and technology. These are students who have absenteeism issues, who are falling behind academically or are considered at-risk and have behavior issues.

"With the money that this grant provides, we will have the ability to develop engaging science programs," said Pittsfield's Superintendent of Schools Gordon Noseworthy.

"This is meaningful and purposeful," he said. "We're going to take the ball and run with it and make it work for this school."

Julia Sabourin, Reid's seventh-grade team leader, said the after-school activities will take place at Reid until 5:30 p.m. four days a week.

Community organizations in the program include the Berkshire Theatre Group, Berkshire Health Systems, the Berkshire Botanical Gardens, Pittsfield Community Television, and the IS183 Art School in Stockbridge.

Allison Rachele Bayles, who represented the Berkshire Theater Group, said their program will teach improvisation exercises with an emphasis on helping children prepare for college and careers.

"The outside programs will have a school teacher assigned to ensure that our school curriculum frameworks are stuck to," Sabourin said.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.