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The Northern Berkshire 2020 Summer Youth Works program had a twist this year as efforts were converted to virtual programming.

Typically, students participate in paid internships throughout local companies, but this year, with generous funding from First Congregational Church of Williamstown and MountainOne, the Berkshire Workforce Board converted programming to a seven-week virtual gardening program.

The board partnered with Greenagers' Aretha Whitehead and Leslie Svilokos, who donated everything for container gardens for each student, and provided lessons about gardening and its impacts on food insecurity, social justice and about cooking with vegetables.

Jen Munoz of North Adams' Growing Healthy Garden Program provided daily instruction, mentoring and videos about gardening tricks, dos and don'ts in planting, and got students out of their comfort zone by trying a variety of new foods.

Once a week, the students worked with Munoz at the Drury Community Gardens. All vegetables harvested were delivered to the Berkshire Food Project.

The final service-learning project was at the Louison House, a transitional housing space for people experiencing homelessness, where the students built raised garden beds.

A team made up of Heather Shogry-Williams, Kat Toomey, Michele Boyer-Vivori and Molly Meczywor recruited, selected and mentored students with continued support from the MassHire Berkshire Career Center, which provided weekly stipends to the participants.

Participating students included Ashlyn Belisle, Camryn Belisle and Molly Boyer of McCann Technical High School in North Adams; Abby Bird, Vernon Lewis, Talia Rehill and Hanna Shea of Hoosac Valley High School in Cheshire; and Madison Helm of Mount Greylock Regional School in Williamstown.

A socially distanced celebration took place Aug. 6 in the Drury High School gardens and included congratulatory remarks on behalf of Mayor Thomas Bernard and attendance from parents, grandparents, Berkshire Workforce Board board members, funders, partners and Adams Selectman Christine Hoyt.

A three-minute video about this year's Summer Youth Works program can be viewed at tinyurl.com/y3u78grl.

In addition to the planting program, three North Adams youths participated in Goodwill's Virtual Customer Service Training Program.

Audrey Belanger, Ryan Goodell and Kyleigh Levesque successfully completed 40 hours of customer service training and nine hours of Employability Skills Training this summer that earned them a nationally recognized certification in customer service.

To learn more, visit the Berkshire Workforce Board Facebook page or MassHireBerkshire.com.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.


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