The Pittsfield Prevention Partnership is announcing a renewed effort to recognize local youths for positive decision making and contributing to their community.
Each month, the partnership, which aims to support the prevention of substance use and abuse among the city's youth, will present a S.A.Y. It Proud award to a youth or youths in the community.
Previously, the awards came from community nominations and were presented quarterly. Now, each month, a different community organization will nominate a youth affiliated with it to receive the honor.
The S.A.Y. (Supporting and Acknowledging Youth) It Proud awards were created in direct response to results found on the Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, taken by Berkshire County eigth, 10th- and 12th-graders every other year.
"We found our eighth-graders said they feel recognized in school and at home, but not in the community, for making positive decisions," said Karen Cole, coordinator for the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership, which is sponsored by Berkshire United Way.
"We also found that recognition helps inhibit alcohol and drug use. This is what this program aims for," Cole said.
She said the partnership is organizing 11 community organizations to sponsor and honor a student each month. The 12th month will give the community-at-large a chance to send in its nominations. Each month, the youth honorees will earn certificates, a small gift and a ceremony.
The Berkshire Eagle will also run a small student profile of the award recipients on the Learning page on the last Tuesday of each month.
At the end of the year, all students and a mentor of their choice will be invited to a grand ceremony presented by PPP.
This month's S.A.Y. It Proud recipients are Krystal Ferrari and Dominique Todd, both students with the Helen Berube Teen Parent Program.
Ferrari, 16, is a junior at Pittsfield High School who will earn her credentials as a certified nursing assistant in January, and has a due date of Feb. 14. She is expecting a girl, who she plans on naming Serenity.
The nominating staff at the Teen Parent Program describe Ferrari as a someone who "works extremely hard in school and has a very positive attitude. She is cheerful and encourages her peers to do their best and stay on task."
"I want my daughter to have everything she possibly can, but I can't do that for her without going to school," Ferrari said. She currently works with a disabled client in a local nursing home, and said she was inspired to become a nurse after caring for her own mother. She plans on participating in the Bridge to College Program with Berkshire Community College.
Todd, a 17-year-old senior from Taconic High School, is the mother of a 21 2-year-old daughter, Micaela. She recently applied to the school's chapter of the National Honor Society, plays hockey, and also holds a part-time job at Panera Bread.
"She is conscientious, organized and a hard worker," the Teen Parent Program staff said in its nominating letter for Todd.
The young woman said she finds great support in her family and plans to pursue a career in accounting, working as a certified public accountant.
Todd said her advice to others is to not "look at the negative in a situation, but keep thinking about the positive and what you can do."