To the editor of THE EAGLE:

During a routine dental appointment last week the hygienist told me about a program her daughter is involved in at Nessacus Middle School in Dalton. After hearing about the latest school incident in Pennsylvania where 21 students and a security guard were stabbed at a high school by a 16-year-old boy, I thought back on my conversation at the dentist office and wondered how the program she mentioned might help prevent such unfortunate incidents from happening if more schools offered similar programs.

So, on Thursday I meant with Michael Hogue, a sixth-grade history teacher at Nessacus, one of the individuals who runs the program "Hot Topics." He and Amanda Martin, a substance abuse counselor at The Brien Center, run two sessions a year, one for sixth graders and the other for seventh and eighth graders. The amazing part of this is that it is an after-school program that meets from school dismissal at 2:35 until 5 once a week for five weeks with 15 to 20 students participating.

The program is funded by the generosity of the United Way. Dinner is provided (usually pizzas) as is a bus to transport the students home.

At a time of crisis in our schools, in an age where both parents are working, and young people have so many questions and concerns, this program supplies a means of open communication for some of our youth. I for one will consider contributing to the United Way in the hopes that this program flourishes and perhaps more such programs spring up in other local schools.

The United Way should be commended for its extremely generous funding of this program especially at a time when funding of school activities by local, state, and national governments is being cut back. Kudos also to Mr. Hogue, Ms. Martin, and The Brien Center for their efforts in sustaining this endeavor.

The community events listing for today in Berkshires Week announces a celebration for Berkshire United Way and The Brien Center at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox from 7:45 to 9:30 a.m.

SUSAN (SUE) B. BARNES

Dalton