PITTSFIELD -- Each month, the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership and local youth programs honor city youths for making positive contributions to the community through its S.A.Y. (Supporting and Acknowledging Youth) It Proud initiative.
February's S.A.Y. It Proud winners are Pittsfield High School seniors Christine Ahoussi, Jennyfer Behanzin and Gladys Garcia, who were nominated by Multicultural BRIDGE for their participation in the Real Talk program.
The three young women are all students of Louise Celebi, English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, and have greatly improved their language and social skills since first enrolling at PHS.
"I didn't know any English when I came here," said Garcia, who arrived in 2010. "I was a shy person."
She said she's been able to find programs at the school, including those co-sponsored by BRIDGE, where "I could be myself and nobody would judge me."
All three students are now active community members and part of the BRIDGE Youth Corps. They've each collaborated with BRIDGE to present a summer educational program in Pittsfield; participated in spoken word performances and given speeches, and have advocated for themselves, each other and their peers in school.
"I found the more I got involved with these things, the more I felt loved and connected to the community and friends. I learned I could be someone," Ahoussi said.
Real Talk coordinator JV Hampton-VanSant told the three honorees, "It's been really great to see you all blossom and see you go on to do wonderful things. You are models for the rest of students in the community and in the ESL community, too."