To the editor of THE EAGLE:
I am writing in support of Pittsfield School Committee candidate Pam Farron, the coordinator of the Disability Resource Center at Berkshire Community College since 1995. I am executive director of Multicultural BRIDGE and also one of the Berkshire County Commissioners on the Status of Women. Pam and I met most recently at a LIPPI (Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact) gathering of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. I am a graduate of the inaugural class and Pam is entering the class of 2014.
Pam has been an inspiration to many parents of mature students with disabilities, including me. Pam Farron created Project Reach in response to the needs of students with significant disabilities, ages 18-22, still enrolled in high school, but wanting to further their vocational skills and have the same social opportunities that other young adults have at the college level.
I am telling my daughter’s story on behalf of the children of Pittsfield. Some years ago, Jess graduated with her high school diploma against many odds and professional predictions. We all know Jess will be a vet tech or a professional someday. As a direct outcome of Pam Farron’s vision, hard work and heart, Jess passed a college interview and was given a chance to prove herself. Pam listened carefully to Jess through her shyness and anxiety and to me as her mother. Pam recognized the spark of passion for learning within Jessica. Jessica lives on the autism spectrum and not many have afforded her the vision of success that Pam did.
With her guidance and support through the culinary program over two semesters Jessica has gained confidence at the Pittsfield Berkshire Community College campus and the South County campus, learning to cook and operate in a kitchen with safety and confidence, going through job interviews, taking and succeeding in Adult Learning workshops at BCC and most of all feeling like a "normal" 21-year-old should feel in class with her peers, learning new things, growing and achieving. This third semester, Jess has joined the newest evolution of Project Reach, learning soft skills for job readiness. These skills directly transfer to her job training at Shaker Hill Pet Resort with the support of Berkshire Family and Individual Resources (BFAIR) staff, where she is happily employed working with animals and following her dream with confidence and competence.
What School Committee does not need a woman with such passion, perseverance and clear vision that every human being in our community has value and strength given the right support and expectations? These students are the future of Berkshire County and the School Committee needs Pam Farron at the table.