Gifts of Volunteering with the Berkshire United Way and Pittsfield Prevention Partnership
My name is Jetter White. I started volunteering with the Berkshire United Way my sophomore year of high school when I was approached by April Nutting about joining the Taconic chapter for Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). Through my work at Taconic with Students Against Destructive Decisions, I decided that although making changes in my school community was satisfying, I wanted to do something that impacted not only my fellow students, but the families and and institutions of my broader community. I approached Berkshire United Way searching for more opportunities and ways to contribute to a greater movement and to impact the community at large. Of course, at this point, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and certainly never imagined how profoundly it would change my life.
Volunteering with the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership through Berkshire United Way has taught me valuable leadership skills, and has helped me to grow as a person. Today, I am a proud intern of the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership, and my passion for helping others grows stronger every day.
The connections I have formed and the opportunities I have been blessed with since I began working with the Berkshire United Way are outstanding. From being given the opportunity to work and speak with the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, to meeting and advocating with United States Senators and Congressmen, the rewards of my involvement in this organization are immeasurable. This work has become a huge part of who I am.
I would like to take a moment to share a quote that I carry with me everyday to remind me of the value and importance of the work we accomplish every day at the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership. I received this quote in a private message a few months ago. It says,
“I am interested in volunteering…I just want to support your efforts. You saved my life.”
This simple, yet powerful statement perfectly summarizes why I continue my work with the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership. Every day I find myself facing a world full of new opportunities and new lives that that can be changed by this critical work. Next year, I am headed off to college, and I am confident that the skills I have gained from my work with Berkshire United Way have prepared me to be successful. In college, I will be pursuing a degree in Social Work that will allow me to continue my work in prevention for the rest of my life.
Organizations like the Berkshire United Way are essential in our community. Every day they are changing the lives of youth and adults alike. I could not be more grateful for everything they have done for me. Before my involvement with this organization, if you had asked me where I wanted to be in the future I would have been speechless. Now however, I can not only answer this question, but I can tell you with strict confidence, not where I want to be but where I WILL be. I will end by saying thank you once again to the Berkshire United Way for the opportunities that have been given to me throughout these past few years.
Being a high school graduate is great. You get to sleep in, there’s no homework or tests to worry about for the first time in what feels like forever, and you have a piece of paper validating all the work you’ve put in for the past twelve years. But what do you do with all that free time?
I’ve been keeping busy, and you can too, whether you’re a graduate or just approaching summer vacation.
- Camp NaNoWriMo is a month-long writing extravaganza. Unlike real summer camp, it’s free. For the month of July, you are placed into a “cabin” with other writers and you write 50,000 words. Or at least that’s the goal. It can be stressful having a deadline, but it also promises fun. Whether or not you reach the goal, you can say you tried.
- Learn a new language. If you have time, this a skill that can only be beneficial. Pick up some phrases in Spanish, French, German, etc. It uses up time in a useful way.
- Brush up for school. Even though it’s summer, it helps to retain all those topics you spent the past few months putting in the effort to learn. You can ace the pre-test your teachers given you when you get back.
- Practice cooking/baking. Start simple and work up. Or stay simple. Or start at something complicated. Learn what you like to eat and how to make it. Share it with other people or don’t and enjoy the fruits of your labor alone. This site will recommend recipes based on what you tell it you like. And the recommendations don’t stop, so prepare to be busy.
- Project Gutenberg has thousands of free books online. You may find your summer reading books here, or just something to try. I personally love Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare, but can’t stand Charles Dickens. I only know that because I took the time to read something by each of them. Give it a whirl.
Stay busy this summer. That doesn’t mean don’t take days to stay in your pajamas and watch Netflix marathons; just don’t make it all you do this summer.
High School Movies
With the last day for high school seniors here, it seems an appropriate time to discuss high school. Or, at least high school movies. (Click the titles for trailers)
This one seems to be everyone’s favourite, making it a must-see. It’s quoted more than you can think a movie could be. It’s good for a laugh and a lesson. It’s about a girl who transfers into a high school from Africa and falls in with the popular crowd. She struggles with balancing who she is against what she has to do to be popular.
The Breakfast Club
Again, this one is very popular and oft-quoted. A cult classic. It has funny moments, but overall has a more serious message. The movie is about five kids from different social groups in the school who end up in Saturday morning detention together. Forced to spend time together, they realize more about themselves and the others in the room they had prejudged.
My personal favourite, of all the ones on this list. It’s about a girl who is labelled a tramp when she lies to her best friend about losing her virginity and is overheard. Her fake sexual exploits explode over the school. Meanwhile, she uses her new notoriety to help “loser” guys rise to popularity by allowing them to lie about what they’ve done with her. This movie is funny, but also points out a huge double standard.
All of these movies are alike, and not just because they are all about high school. Each of them follows teenagers struggling with their identities and reputations, trying to moderate between the two. In the end (*spoiler*), all of them choose their identity over their reputation. That seems to be the message of most high school movies. They aren’t on the list, but think about High School Musical, Grease, Pretty in Pink, or 10 Things I Hate About You. They all teach the same thing, with different storylines.
Form your identity before your reputation, so that they both reflect you for who you are.
With school almost over, most people will be looking for things to do with their time. Although sometimes it may seem there isn’t anything going on, Berkshire County has many events offered. Here are three.
May 15 is the first Third Thursday on North Street in Pittsfield. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Third Thursday is essentially a street fair with live music, food vendors, shopping, art, and performers. The event goes from 5pm to 8pm. The theme for May 15 is “Creative Youth”. For more information, click the picture.
The Berkshire Museum is currently hosting the “Objectify” exhibit. This exhibit is compiled of items in the Museum’s holding, in celebration of its 110th anniversary. For more information, click here.
Bousquet in Pittsfield is offering the following deals this summer:
$10 Mondays - Enjoy all day access to our waterslides and activity pool and throw in a round on our 18-hole mini-golf course for $10 every Monday all summer long.
$20 Tuesdays - Now you can enjoy our Adventure Park every Tuesday for only $20 per person! 35 elements “high in the sky” for just twenty bucks on Tuesdays.
There are more deals available on their website here.
With the school year coming to a close, it can be difficult to focus on the tasks at hand. Summer is fast approaching and everyone is ready to run towards it. However, this frame of mind doesn’t seem to click with the homework and early mornings and classes. Focusing on work can seem almost impossible when there’s so much more to be doing with your time. But it is necessary, so here are some tips to help.
Block your time. Saying “I’m going to do this for half an hour and then I’m going to stop for half an hour” is often a more effective way to use my time. If I try to work straight through, I end up distracted and unproductive. Being able to reward myself with break time is critical to my focus.
Do the work in the same place. Sometimes it’s impossible to do homework in the same place-it gets done as opportunity arises; but, having a designated “homework” place can greatly improve concentration. It could be a desk, a couch, a certain section of the floor -it doesn’t matter, as long as you establish the habit.
Put your phone and other electronics on “do not disturb”. No matter how well-intentioned your goals, it’s impossible to focus with a phone dinging with each text and email. Just shut them off for the time you need to work -you can always answer during the break time.
Make sure the people in the area know you will be working. Just like you don’t want your electronics to interrupt your work, you don’t want other people to either. It would be awful to be in the middle of an English article and have your mother pop in to talk about plans for later in the week.
Don’t worry about what else you have to do. If you spend the entire time worried about other work, than it’ll be hard to focus on any of it. Making sure your attention is on the assignment at hand will help get the work done more efficiently.
Good luck with the rest of the school year, and don’t feel downtrodden. Every day is one step closer to summer vacation. Just don’t lose track of what needs to be done now.
Your teachers put the countdown on the board. Suddenly, you’re bombarded with essays, FRQs, DBQs, and multiple choice questions. Drowning underneath practice tests and scoring guidelines, you search for the correct answers. It seems there will be no surviving.
Welcome to AP test season.
It sounds awful and is the dread of every student that participates. However, it’s never too late to try to grasp that last minute concept or practice something your teacher hasn’t clarified for you. In addition to giving out money for a review book (which you should consider), try these links and resources.
This website provides notes for some AP classes, including European History, US History, and Psychology.
This website isn’t specifically designed for the AP tests, but it does provide note and examples for most subjects taught in school.
This website has downloads of practice tests for some of the AP subjects.
This app (for Apple devices) has flashcards for every AP subject. And not like one set -several sets for each subject. It also has the option to create your own card sets.
Search for AP review videos on YouTube -you should get several hits and one of them is bound to help.
Ask your teacher if they have study materials that could help you. More often than not, they already own review books and will share them with you or make copies of pages you need.
The CollegeBoard has several resources from old exams. Even just glancing at them can give you an idea of what may be on your test.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t let the test-taking get you down. Focus on the material; the test will cover all of it and you can only strive to know as much as you can as thoroughly as you can.
411 in the 413, a set on Flickr.On behalf of the Berkshire Youth Development Project youth conference planning committee, we would like to thank every one of the 111 students that attended this year’s “411 in the 413 Youth Conference: Journey of Discovery”!
The goals developed by the planning committee are to foster relationships between youth, raise awareness around issues, present options for involvement, and provide information about current youth-related topics. The theme of this year’s conference is “#Get Connected”. All Berkshire County public high schools were invited to send up to 10 students each to participate at no cost.
The conference featured workshops that were facilitated by local professionals, artists, students, and youth groups from the area. There was a wide variety of workshops planned such as: healthy cooking, yoga, DIY projects, outdoor activities, break-dancing, meditation and much, much more!
On behalf of everyone on the Youth Development Conference Committee, we thank you for your involvement!
The definition of bravery is “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear”. (Definition from dictionary.reference.com) That is, the ability of some to go headfirst into stuff others are terrified of without flinching. In my experience, only a few people have this trait as an existing part of their personality -the rest of us just fake it. By forcing yourself to be brave, it becomes less and less stressful to show that courage. It becomes a part of who you are.
Forcing yourself to even just act brave can be emotionally and physically draining. Shaky knees, sweaty palms, twisted words -it happens to me all the time when I step outside of my comfort zone. Dealing with those first is important; it certainly makes me feel braver when I can control my own body. Focusing on breathing and checking in with yourself can help. Breathing for seven seconds in and then eleven seconds out with breaths that push out your belly will help calm you down. “Checking in” entails registering what you are feeling and thinking about: are you nervous? excited? was traffic bad? is there anything else chipping away at your attention? Once you have it registered in your mind as a distraction, it will be easier to let go of.
If you know that you hate public speaking, drawing attention to yourself, or something else entirely, baby steps may be better. If it’s public speaking, memorize a poem or a speech to recite to yourself in the mirror and then your friends or family; if possible, finalize it with a presentation in a talent show or showcase. This baby step strategy also works with learning to say “no” to people (start with little decisions and transition to bigger ones), as well as any other fear you may have.
With this in mind, I have a great event to recommend.
Barrington Stage Company and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency investing public dollars in building creative communities and inspiring creative minds, in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the YouthReach Initiative, are collaborating to host Acts of Bravery Youth Open Mic Night on May 2 from 7 to 9 pm at Barrington Stage Company’s Mr. Finn’s Cabaret Thtr. located downstairs in the Blatt Center at 36 Linden Street, Pittsfield, MA. Anyone aged 13 to 19 is invited to perform; send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday April 30th if you’re interested in performing or just want more information. If you aren’t in the age bracket to perform, you are still invited to attend this FREE event. The doors will be open from 6:30 to 7 pm on May 2 for those who wish to attend. Refreshments are provided.
Force yourself to be brave and come support those who are showcasing their bravery.
They’re the simplest little words in the world. Use them to voice your own decisions, and they become POWERFUL!!
Validity and Shakespeare
This seems to be a common problem, so I thought I would do a brief post on it.
Just because you see something on the Internet does not make it true. You know that. I know that. Everyone that has had to do a report in elementary school knows that. But sometimes, it takes more than that.
Do a quick Internet search for the information. For example, if someone says “30% of people who did that died” a search of “how many people die from the cinnamon challenge?” will yield several thousand results. A quick look at a few can often confirm or deny the validity of what they are saying.
If you cannot find many sources with the information you are looking for, it may be necessary to do a background check on the sources. Searching the author and the host can often reveal “trolling” pages and inaccurate information. Also, look at the date of the sources you could find. If the information is outdated for what you are looking for (give about a five year buffer zone on your topic, smaller or larger depending on the information in question).
Could the author or company be biased? In your search on them, look for information that could change the validity of their message.
Check the comments on the information you have found, if there are any. Do they sound trustworthy? Remember that authors write to their audience, and a dishonest or ignorant audience will contort the information presented.
This is only four steps -all of which can be as simple as typing them into your search bar or as complicated as going through past newspaper and Internet articles. However, it will guard you against falsified information and trolls.
One last thing before the end of this post. I have posted about Fall Festival of Shakespeare on here before, but in case you never read this post, I’ll summarize quickly. Ten schools from Massachusetts and New York put on a show at their school under the guidance of directors, tech coordinators, and costumers from Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, MA using resources such as set, weapons, and costumes from the organization. Each school does performances at their own buildings, but the best part comes after that. There is one weekend when all ten schools get together at Shakespeare & Co. to put on their shows. The energy during those shows is high and passionate; the audience will hiss, boo, cheer, laugh, and support every show that is done on the stage.
For the past twenty-two years, Taconic High School has participated in this. However, for the past three years, we’ve been horribly short in paying for it. This year, we were told that if we could not pay the price of participation we would not be able to do a show in the fall. That cost is $13,000. Currently, a GoFundMe has been created. Anything that can be done to help this cause will be greatly appreciated by all of those who ever have been or ever will be involved with the program.