Students of color honored for their work at Berkshire Graduates of Color Celebration


PITTSFIELD -- Aspiring pharmacists, commercial pilots, physical therapists, biologists and crime scene investigators comprised a class of 47 area high school students of color honored Saturday for their forthcoming graduations.

Stepping up to receive individual recognition, the students named these and other career hopes and said they’d pursue degrees nearby, at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Berkshire Community College, Williams College and Western New England College, and farther away, at University of New Haven and University of Connecticut.

Barbara Krauthamer, keynote speaker of the event, told the students that people of color too often face extra boundaries in achieving their goals because of who they are.

Some colleagues and students still subject Krauthamer, a distinguished African-American historian and UMass-Amherst professor, to undue question and skepticism in her own career, she said.

"Their opposition only fuels my desire to speak louder and to research and write more," Krauthamer said, prompting nods of approval from the many parents and guardians who attended the event, which was held in the second-floor ballroom above Spice Dragon restaurant.

Soon-to-be graduate Nyanna Slaughter, a Taconic High School student who will attend the University of New Haven, said the community provided her a support network that helped boost her confidence and establish goals.

Slaughter said she hopes to become a crime scene investigator.

"I think Agent Slaughter has a pretty cool ring to it," she said.

The Taconic senior thanked Shirley Edgerton, program director for the state Department of Developmental Services, for running the local group Rights of Passage, where Slaughter said she found her voice.

Edgerton’s group brings together area students to discuss such themes as spirituality, self-reliance, resilience and careers.

Community leaders like Edgerton, Mayor Daniel Bianchi, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless, Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn and others also attended to tip their caps to the

"I thank you young people simply for being you," McCandless said. "For me, you are the biggest, the truest and the most pure source of hope for a better tomorrow. So much of how Pittsfield will be, how Massachusetts will be, how America will be rests with you and your putting actions to your dreams."

"The paths you’re going to be going down are many and varied, but know that your community is behind you, we support you and we expect great things from you," Farley-Bouvier said.

Saturday’s happenings marked the ninth time the Women of Color Giving Circle, organizers of the event, held its Berkshire Graduates of Color Celebration. The organization is closing in on its 10th anniversary.

Massachusetts’ present crop of 955,739 enrolled public school students is 17 percent Hispanic, nine percent African-American, six percent Asian and 65 percent white.

To reach Phil Demers:
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On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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