Project: See the Light honors Newtown victims, calls for peace

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PITTSFIELD -- The hope for peace took different forms Thursday night -- in rhythmic drumming, on a freezing trek down East Street and, eventually, through flickering flames twinkling high in the night sky.

More than 60 people attended Project: See the Light, an event to promote peace in response to the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December that killed 20 children and six educators. It was organized by students at Mildred Elley's early childhood education program.

"I think as teachers in training, my students felt rather helpless about what we could possibly do to make a difference in a positive way," said Patty Kay, the chairwoman for the program, which started last July.

The event originally was just going to be a cold walk from Mildred Elley, 505 East St., to Park Square in downtown Pittsfield. The other events -- drums, poetry and high-flying paper luminaries -- were later added as other symbols for peace.

"Between the music and the poetry and the walking and the luminaries, it's just a tribute to those kids and their teachers," Kay said.

At-risk students from the Hillcrest Educational Center in Lenox made up the Hillcrest Drummers, which performed African and other cultural rhythms on the drums. The selections elicited toe-taps, hand-claps and booty-shaking from the audience members.

"The music is very spiritual and peaceful, and I felt that this was a great venue to put [the students] in," said Jo Ann Lombardo, the youth development counselor at the Hillcrest Educational Center.

Poems were read by youngsters that Jennifer Potts, a pre-school teacher and student at Mildred Elley, found through her daughter's cheer team at the Pittsfield Catholic Youth Center.

Then two police cruisers, lights blinking, guided everyone from Mildred Elley to Park Square. Some carried handmade candle-holders containing electronic tea lights, each one with a name of one of the children killed in the Newtown shooting.

Once at Park Square, people began lighting small fuel containers at bottom of the luminaries to send them flying. Some skidded along the ground. Others floated high above the trees and buildings, dotting the sky with flickering lights.

Tina Goewey, a Mildred Elley accounting student who lost her niece, Olivia Engel, in the Connecticut shooting, said she was ‘wowed' by the outpouring of support. The early childhood education students gave her a candle with Olivia's name on it, and a luminary which she set off from home since she couldn't make the vigil.

"I was very, very blessed that Mildred Elley took the time and their love and care and be there for Newtown."

To reach Adam Poulisse:
apoulisse@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse


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