PITTSFIELD — A regional education coalition and 11 local school districts have won a $311,416 state grant to fund a new college and career readiness program.
The program, Strengthening Berkshire Student College and Career Readiness, will focus on training, mentoring and coaching. The schools will create work-based learning plans and promote job shadowing and and paid internship opportunities.
“This is an important project for the region,” Bill Cameron, chairman of the group BERK12, said in a statement. “This will help all of these Berkshire County schools address the ongoing disparities in college and career readiness opportunities that are present here due to economic disadvantages, demographics, and our rural location.”
Cameron, who is also chair of the Pittsfield Public Schools Committee, is part of a group of educators, community and business leaders who make up BERK12 — formerly known as the Berkshire County Education Task Force.
The college readiness program and grant are a shared project of BERK12 and area school districts. The districts include Berkshire Hills, Central Berkshire, Clarksburg, Farmington River Regional, Florida, Hancock, Hoosac Valley Regional, Lee-Tyringham, Mount Greylock Regional and Southern Berkshire Regional.
Other participants are the Berkshire Arts and Technology public charter school, Berkshire Community College and the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board.
The college readiness project will create school-based teams. A career and college readiness curriculum and teaching resources will be developed for each of the districts to use in their classrooms.
The program will run year-round, according to Berkshire Hills’ Superintendent Peter Dillon, and involve not only middle and high school students, but elementary school students.
Dillon said a portion of the program will work on “engaging underrepresented students, including those who are identified as low-income and high-need.”
In Massachusetts, 68 districts were eligible for the grant funds. The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reported that it received 19 applications and ultimately made four awards for a total of just over $1 million.
DESE officials said the grant is meant to support students by improving educational program quality and efficiencies within rural districts.
Ellen Kennedy, president of Berkshire Community College, said in a statement that her school has “long recognized the need for students to gain equal access to higher education, as evidenced by our growing dual enrollment program. We also take great pride in training our students for careers urgently needed in the Berkshires and beyond.”