Roots Northern Berkshire Teen Center to open in October


NORTH ADAMS — A years-long goal in the city — a downtown teen center — is coming to fruition in October.

With a new home secured on Eagle Street and a newly hired Executive Director in Jessica Sweeney, the Roots Northern Berkshire Teen Center is poised to become an inclusive and creative space for the city's 14- to 22-year-old residents. Its anticipated opening is Oct. 15 with programming beginning the following week.

With an eye on future programming at Roots, the Common Folk Artist Collective will be hosting the first-ever Common Folk Arts and Music Festival at Western Gateway Heritage State Park on Saturday.

The creation of the teen center comes out of a workgroup developed through the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's Northern Berkshire Youth Collaborative.

"There were a lot of discussions about teens having a space here in North Adams," said Sweeney, who left her position working with local youth at the Community Coalition to become the new executive director of Roots.

Courtney Randall, a co-pastor at the New Hope United Methodist Church in North Adams, helped to secure $100,000 for the teen center's first three years from the United Methodist Church in Great Barrington.

"The idea and the model that we're using is that the New Hope is sponsoring the center but in partnership with organizations in the community," said Randall, who now serves as president of Roots' board of directors.

To win the funding, the work group put together a strategic plan built after researching other youth centers, with a goal of making the North Adams teen center sustainable as a "centralized point where teens in the Berkshire would know what's going on and have access to programs and a safe place to hang out," Randall said.

"Really the foundation of everything we came to is that we wanted to support the voices of young people in the community," Sweeney said.

Still in its beginning stages, Roots wants to leave much of what it will become up to the teenagers who will call it home, according to Sweeney. Teens will have a large role in determining what kind of programming Roots undertakes, and Sweeney said there's been interest in talent shows, writing groups, open mics, drop-in times after school and special other special events.

The nonprofit has been established with a 14-member board of directors and a 14-member youth board. Programming will continue to be developed over the coming weeks and the teen center will look to partner with community members and organizations moving forward.

"The idea is that the partnerships are going to be what keeps it sustainable," Randall said. "It's more than any one church or organization can take on."

People have already reached out to ask about potentially providing programming, according to Randall, and Roots encourages more to volunteer.

"A lot of it is just making sure that we can be a vehicle," Randall said.


The proceeds from the Common Folk Arts and Music Festival — which will feature food, drink, art, and live music throughout the day — will benefit the Roots Center. The Freight Yard Pub will also contribute 20 percent of food sales to Roots.

The event will be held from 2 to 10 p.m. and parking will be available in the Sons of Italy lot.

Tickets are $15 in advance or $25 at the door.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.

What: Common Folk Arts and Music Festival to benefit Roots: Northern Berkshire Teen Center

Where: Western Gateway Heritage State Park, North Adams (North Adams Elks Lodge in the event of rain)

When: Saturday, from 2 to 10 p.m.

Artists: Nate Massari, Misa Chappell

Musicians: Tim Martin, Dylan Girouard, The Tobin Brothers, Sophie Lane, Francesca Shanks, Izzy Heltai and Secret Creature, Anonymous Animal, The Jays, the le duo

Cost: General Admission $15 advance, $25 day of

Tickets & Information:


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