Photo Gallery | 411 in the 413
Editor's Note: The annual '411 in the 413' youth leadership conference was held at the Berkshire Outdoor Center in Becket. The Berkshire Outdoor Center is one of four departments of the The Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA, which also operates Camp Becket-Chimney Corners on the same site.
BECKET -- More than 100 students from 14 Berkshire County schools climbed towers, launched rockets and created new works of art and writing on Wednesday during the annual "411 in the 413" youth leadership conference.
Now in its eighth year, the program has become a mainstay among leadership and networking opportunities for young people in the Berkshires that doesn't revolve around sports.
"It was created by a teen in the Berkshires who really craved teen leadership here," said Jared Bozza, a senior at Monument Mountain Regional High School. He co-organized this year's conference with McCann Technical School sophomore Danielle Felten and Julia Bianchi, a Miss Hall's School junior from Cheshire.
This year's theme was dubbed, "#GetConnected."
"We wanted the day to be about how you connect with your friends, with social media and with the outdoors," said Felten, addressing her peers at the top of the event.
Bianchi said that during the last six months of planning the event she learned that across schools and social groups, connectivity is an issue among young people in many aspects.
"Most of the time, teens tend to stay in their own bubble," she said, "We wanted to be able to expand people's friendship circles and support networks."
The daylong conference, held at the Berkshire Outdoor Center, is developed under the Berkshire Youth Development Project (BYDP) umbrella. The collaborative includes the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Pittsfield Prevention Partnership, and Railroad Street Youth Project/South Berkshire Community Coalition.
Prior to the event, students registered to attend three workshops among more than two dozen offered, including a high-ropes obstacle course, wellness programs and a rocket-building session.
"It's a good idea and gives us a free opportunity to try new activities," said Mount Greylock Regional High School sophomore Noah Savage, whose school attended the conference for the first time this year. His first workshop was taught by another teen, Patsy Cowen. The Monument Mountain senior led a session stemming from her own passion -- clay. Every other Wednesday, she also teaches her peers how to do clay work at Railroad Street Youth Project in Great Barrington.
The morning started with speaker Curtis Elfenbein Asch, a local spoken word poet and slam poetry champion and a mathematics teacher at Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School.
"You are the most powerful generation in history," Elfenbein Asch told the teens, after listing a range of headline-making youths from around the world. But, he acknowledged that today's teens have no shortage of challenges facing them, from bullying to personal battles with body image to larger issues of global warming.
"I hope after today you leave with an arsenal of words, thoughts and ideas to help you navigate the complicated world adults in my generation have left you," he said.