Youth Works delivers hope and real-world experience


PITTSFIELD >> Trisann Alexander is originally from Jamaica, Daniella Herrara-Pusquin from Colombia. They're both 21 and came to Pittsfield last year.

Different countries, different cultures, but one goal: to acquire the skills needed to successfully succeed in the workplace.

On Friday morning, the two women were among 35 city residents between the ages of 14 and 21 to receive certificates at City Hall from Director of Administrative Services Roberta McCulloch-Dews for completing the six-week Pittsfield 2016 Youth Works Summer Program.

The program is a state-funded initiative administered by Berkshire Training and Employment through the BerkshireWorks Career Center and the Berkshire Regional Employment Board.

"You all deserve humongous congratulations for your success," said Youth Program Director Kelly Groves. "It was a pretty short program, but it has long-lasting results. You accomplished so much. We are all very proud of you."

The program, which began July 11, is designed to help teens and young adults gain the skills and experiences they need to obtain jobs through work-readiness classes and summer employment experiences. This is the 12th year the program has taken place in Pittsfield.

Seven of this year's graduates have already been hired by their summer employers, according to Groves. Twenty-one employers participated in this year's program.

Eligibility is determined along 2016 federal family income poverty standards. According to Chase, 100 young people applied this year.

Friday's ceremony was like any other graduation event, minus the caps and gowns. Cellphone cameras whirred and clicked. Smiles abounded. Cheers were heard as the participants walked up to a podium in City Council chambers to receive their certificates.

"I feel appreciated," said Alexander after receiving her certificate. "Words can't explain how I feel today."

A native of the Jamaican resort of Montego Bay, Alexander came to Pittsfield in December. She got involved in the Youth Works Summer Program when she went to BerkshireWorks to complete her high school equivalency degree program.

Alexander's position as a receptionist at Mildred Elley this summer was the first job she's ever had.

"I filed documents," she said. "I greeted people. I like to greet people. It makes me happy."

Alexander's background is not unique. Many of the graduates had no previous work experience. Dependability and teamwork are two of the most important skills that graduates can take out of the program, Chase said.

"A lot of them have never worked, so they don't know how to collaborate with each other," Chase said.

"Dependability, taking responsibility and teamwork," Chase told the graduates during the ceremony, "You all showed that.

"Most importantly, you will leave this program with references you can contact for your next job in employment," she said.

"You learned something this summer," said State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield. "We have launched you to the next step."

"What you earned today can never be taken away from you," added Mike Dunn, BerkshireWorks' Youth Works Worksite Coordinator.

Like Alexander, Herrara-Pusquin became involved in the Youth Works program when she went to BerkshireWorks to complete her equivalency diploma. She looked proud when returning to her seat after receiving her certificate.

Maybe it's because Herrara-Pusquin already has future plans.

"I want to be a teacher," she said.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 496-6224.


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