Berkshire County middle schoolers learn what it takes to get into college


PITTSFIELD -- Career and college readiness events will be held throughout Berkshire County on Thursday, but they're not for high school students.

Berkshire United Way has teamed up with several community partners to present "YOU First," a new event designed to help seventh- and eighth-graders learn more about what it takes to get into college and how to find an enjoyable career.

Students must register for the free event, which will last for about an hour and a half and include food, raffles, brief remarks from community role models, short videos and group activities about college and career planning.

"We want all of our young people to understand that they have options and the capacity and community support to be whatever they want to be," said Berkshire United Way President and CEO Kristine Hazzard.

Marcia Parnell, Berkshire United Way's coordinator of marketing and communications, said planning of the event started last March as a way to tie into the organization's goals of supporting education and employment in Berkshire County.

She said YOU First is a different approach to Berkshire United Way's annual Day of Caring, and is being held in collaboration with the Berkshire Compact for Education, Northern Berkshire United Way, Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, school guidance departments and is sponsored by Berkshire Money Management.

"Any kind of college awareness is a good way start, particularly at this age," said Kevin Costello, a guidance counselor at Monument Valley Regional Middle School in Great Barrington.

"There's a direct link between awareness and setting goals. It can help students be able to take the next steps in planning, such as what classes they should take in high school," he said.

Each event will feature two speakers from the community as well as a video made by Pittsfield Community Television featuring short interviews with successful community members who grew up in and work in Berkshire County.

If you go ...

What: YOU First, a college and career readiness event for seventh- and eighth-graders of Berkshire County.

When: Events will take place on Thursday at the following locations and times:

n Lee Middle and High School, 12:30 to 2 p.m.

n Nessacus Regional Middle School, Dalton, 2:45 to 4:30 p.m.

n Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Murdock Hall, North Adams, 3:30 to 5 p.m.

n Berkshire South Regional Community Center, Great Barrington, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

n Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center, Pittsfield, 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Registration: Organizers are asking that students register for the event through www.berk or on Berkshire United Way's Facebook page. For more information, call (413) 442-6948

or email Maryanne Boenitz, Berkshire United Way,; Joe McGovern, Northern Berkshire United Way,; or Mary Nash, Berkshire Compact for Education,


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