PITTSFIELD -- You can't miss the bright orange shirts of the youths and adults participating in the YMCA Marilyn Hamilton Literacy Program.

The program was designed, in collaboration with the Masons of St. John's Lodge No. 10, to shine a light on the struggles youths have with reading and comprehension.

More than 70 kids and teens who live in the city's Westside and Morningside neighborhoods have been served by the program, which started July 7 and will conclude Wednesday, Aug. 20, with a special ceremony to be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at Pitt Park on Columbus Avenue.

"The kids really deserve the recognition. They stuck it out the whole summer," said Manfred "Manny" Slaughter, a Mason and coordinator of the program.

In addition to a literacy curriculum, the program, held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, also offered sports activities, educational and recreational field trips at no cost to the students. Sponsors of the program included Berkshire United Way, the City of Pittsfield, Greylock Federal Credit Union, TD Charitable Foundation and SEI/Aaron's Inc.

Last week, as seen in the photo at right, the group visited The Eagle to learn about newspapers, from press operations to sales, news writing to distribution. On Monday, they visited the Berkshire Athenaeum.

"A lot of them didn't have library cards, so we wanted to get them all signed up for that," Slaughter said.


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