The following articles are all written by 8th graders working with Mr. Erickson. These students are participating in the newly minted MVM YES program, a closing activity based on choice and interest for 8th graders to engage in. The topics of interest include healthcare, teacher  impact, local currency, and more.

After the articles is a link to the recent photos from the YES projects.

Sean Flynn: The Consummate Connector

By David Flynn

Sean Flynn is a coach and a guidance counselor who has a large influence on the student body at Monument Mountain Regional High School (MMRHS). Sean Flynn has made a career out of connecting with students; his impact on hundreds of his former students over his past 20 years at Monument has translated to a lifetime of influence.

Sean Flynn has been able to maintain relationships with his students long after they leave high school. As they contact him whenever they can to inform him on their accomplishments.

“I’ll get emails from them, or I’ll get emails from their parents about where they’re at, what they’re up to” Flynn says, about how people still stay in touch with him. “I had a student who graduated from here named Cam Stevenson, who just graduated from Southern Maine Community College, with two degrees, one in fire science and the other as a paramedic. And he is now one of the paramedics on staff for Former President George H. W. Bush”“That’s one of the most recent students who has contacted me” he says. Stevensons Dad contacted Flynn to let him know because Flynn was who first introduced him to the college in Maine and was instrumental in him getting accepted.  

Flynn still stays in contact with hundreds of students. He receives many emails everyday from either the students or parents with an update on where they’re at in life. Many students feel the need to tell him about their successes, because he has had such a big impact on their life through his guidance at MMRHS.

He gets stories from students daily, boasting about what they’ve done and how much he [Flynn] has helped them throughout life. “Another one that I would probably point out would be a former graduate named Natalie Akres who graduated from Yale who is now working for a company called the Gakko project (Gakko means school in Japan) and its an organization created for learners.”

They also don’t reach out to him with good news, sometimes the reach out when they are going through tough and hard times.

“Most people, at some point during high school, will go through at least one or two really difficult moments. And your hope is that they’ll feel like they can reach out to one of us and we can help them get to the other side of it” Flynn says when asked on how he gets people out of going down a dark path. “You want those things to happen now, where they can be supported by people and learn the skills that they need to navigate a really difficult situation later on in life.”

Part of Flynn’s job is to help and guide students through tough times and to establish a good staff and student relationship, so the students can trust teachers.“[Marianne Young] She created a culture here where we are very focused on building student centered learning environment in which faculty are encouraged to be first and foremost to mentor students.”

Many of Flynn’s students have come back to the Berkshires and raised a family of their own, most of them having a large influence on the community. “To see people like Matt Naventi, Brendan Heck, Jess Platt, coaching and teaching. Kids that I coached who are now back here, coaching my kids.” “I really like to see.”

When asked why he thinks former students still keep in touch with him; he notes “hopefully because I built a good relationship with them and you know, they felt like I helped them at some point life in some kind of way.


Healthcare no matter the cost

By Jace Nacht

“There is much more to being a dentist then just doing fillings and cleanings, as a dentist you could also be play a roll into benefiting the community.” Jonathan Nacht the local dentist in Great Barrington feels like he needs to be a part of the community in more than a few ways. He did not want to just be the guy that fills cavities, he wants to be the person that people in need feel they can go to and help lots and lots with their health and improving their smile.

Jonathan Nacht, the general dentist in Great Barrington started by enrolling at Syracuse university. Going into Syracuse he had a minor of biology and his major was art history, he graduated in 1991. During his time at syracuse he realized what he would like to do in life. The dentistry business ran in the family, his father was a successful dentist in Florida. “I knew I wanted to follow my dads foot step and be a general dentist.”  After Syracuse Nacht went to Boston university for graduate school, there he majored in dental medicine. “At that point in my life I did not like dental school at all.” he says.

After the dental school graduation he remembers feeling an immense joy. “After graduation I finally felt free.” He moved to Connecticut then Chicago where he had a baby girl with his wife Jennifer Nacht. After living in Chicago for a few years he did not like the midwest or being employed.

He wanted to be the owner of his own dental practice. Nacht moved to the Berkshires in 2004. In 2004 his wife gave birth to a boy, being busy with a newborn it was hard for him to work, but he pulled the trigger of a local practice from a dentist in great barrington. He remembers this year as being very hard for him. “ I was very stressed throughout the whole year.”

As the years past Nacht began to build up a reputation as being on of the top practices in the area. In 2008 the non-profit organization called Western Mass Labor Action reached out to his practice. This organization has a mission to help people in need. The org. Has volunteers who help give food, shelter, and more ways of safety to those who are in severe poverty, have gone through abuse and much other hardship.

They reached out to the Great Barrington dentist and asked if he was willing to work on patients who had not received care or who were at unfortunately low times in their lives. Nacht accepted this request and started seeing different patients with different problems. He performs many different providers on these patients such as fillings, cleanings, and dentures. With new and improved dental hygiene now the patients can return do eating and much pain is reduced. As a result of these patients being at low times they are not able to get insurance or they can not afford regular appointments or treatments. This opportunity WMLA and Nacht give is for no charge.

After patients receive this care they are extremely thankful. “ After they get the help they say that they feel like a new person.” Nacht believes this treatment is very important. He believes that  dental care is usually a service that is taken for granted. “Although dental care might not be fun it is very important, with bad dental hygiene your general health decreases severely.”

Nacht believes that everything starts with dental hygiene. “With an improves smile maybe now they are able to secure the job they want at the interview.” with a new smile he believes they will have the confidence to get back on their feet and try new things.

He thinks this is very important because no other dentist town gives this opportunity. Nacht sees up to ten patients a month that are in need of the help. As a result of this care he has helped about 300 patients and he will continue to run this program.

This is Jonathan Nachts practice is Great Barrington, Massachusetts. 130 West Avenue.  


BerkShares

By Lenah Helmke

The towns set on the western part of Massachusetts, known as the berkshires, have many community projects that engage the community within the authentic shops and tourist attractions. As we know, tourists keep the local businesses up and running, for the most part. Locals do not do as much window shopping in their own town as much as one would hope.

It is difficult to keep a boutique running in the winter seasons when the amount of area traffic is not as heavy.  Members of our community founded an organization known as BerkShares. This is a local currency for the berkshire citizens. That was made to inspire locals to shop at the unique stores in their towns to keep the culture alive.

Railroad street youth project, W.E. Dubois, the fairgrounds, and many other up lifting projects happening in our area today, bring the community to get involved in positive ways. BerkShares organization really got my attention, the people and the significance of this system should be further recognized. This could really affect locals and inspire our residents to support local businesses of the berkshires. Four hundred local businesses and sixteen banks within the southern part of the berkshires of sheffield all the way up to the northern town of Williamstown use BerkShares. for people and that we have control over in the berkshires”.

The economy of the stores are powered by the locals and it is very important that we embrace the amazing opportunity of healthy and local grown food and products. Berkshares gives an opportunity to “Simply spend your money in local businesses, and a way to make it visible”, says Maggio. In today’s society, the internet takes over where we spend our money, which can powerfully impact the economy and local corporations.

An employee of JWS, located in Great Barrington, said, “They [BerkShares] don’t come in all that often”. The problem, is that many citizens in the berkshires  have not learned or heard about this currency. Because of the lack of popularity, the impact on the stores is less significant. If a positive amount of the citizens of berkshire county use BerkShares, the traffic of the local businesses would advance, and it would encourage people to shop and support local businesses.

I asked Maggio how the currency could be publicised more. She said “We need people to dig in and figure it out, and then share what they learn about it, and especially young people”. Berkshares could have an extensive impact on healthy eating and local businesses. Now all it needs is for the younger generation to advance the reputation of the currency.


The Special Olympics

By Mia Wade

Last month Monument Mountain was taken over by the Special Olympics. Different schools came together to celebrate people who are a little different from us but not less perfect. We have Lee, Lenox, monument, Sheffield, and many more schools coming to monument.

Everyone loves a competition and with the special olympics you can have a competition where no one really losses since they all get medals either gold silver or bronze.

Everyone has different opinions on things but this quote is clear “the Special Olympics gives people who are a little different have a chance to shine.” Faye Ross, a girl in middle school who has Cerebral Palsy. Says that people who are different in ways that normally can’t do things like baseball with others has a chance to shine their own light.

The Special Olympics gives people who are different a chance to compete and also win medals every time “ The medals is what I like most.” Faye Ross. this states that kids want medals and with everyone winning it is easy to.

gg   The Special Olympics is on the football field or varsity soccer. It is a big field but yet feel so crowded when the Olympics comes. There is around 20 schools that go to monument on that day. “ it can be intimidate with so many participants.” Rebecca Marzotto, a special education teacher at Monument Mountain. It says that people get nervous with so many participants and families.

It is nice to see people come but one of the best is seeing high school students volunteering and students from all over coming to support classmates and friends. This shows of how no matter how different we are but yet we come together when we celebrate people who are different but yet as perfect as us. The special olympics has people come together with all races.

Rebecca Marzotto is a teacher at Monument Mountain and she has been doing the special olympics for  30-35 years. When she retires she is going to stay with the special olympics as she loves watching her students play and seeing them as adults. Rebecca is a loved teacher and does her best for students. Her love for the special olympics is shown during our interview she has been here for so long and gone to the special olympics every year.

Faye Ross is a girl in 8th grade and she has Cerebral Palsy. She was born in china, and she has a heartwarming since of positivity, and loves to play and see her friends in the olympics. She loves the medals, and the crowd that is there. She loves to meet new people, and is really friendly. Faye loves the playing in the Special Olympics.

While some students love the softball throw. The teachers are more into the running because it give kids the activity they might not have.Activities are so important, but some don’t get as much as they need. This can hurt children in the long run and that is not what we want. This running activity might not be long but it gives them a little running to get their hearts racing.

The olympics just had their 39th anniversary. It has at 10 there own run with the torch. After that they do a walk around the track all the computers and chaperones. After it is they games they have, running,softball throw, run and jump, and more. They also have a little game area so that they can play carnival games and again everyone wins. Then at 1:00pm it should close up and the games are done till next year.

On of the best parts of the Special Olympics is watching the kids give all their efforts and winning medals. Their face glows up and you can see the excitement and the effort that has gone into it.

Being the first time going will be a lot so many people and tents it will be crowded but once you get the hang of it you will  have so much fun and joy to fill. You can stay on the bleachers and watch the running or you can move on the field where you can see running and throwing and the jumps. It is crazy but super exciting. You can relax and enjoy the day watching kids and adults be super happy for the medal they got and effort put in.

I have been to the Special Olympics for 7 years and each time I love it more. Going is a fun time and seeing people you know and love doing it well it just fills your heart. I really hope that people will come and support them, like your friends do during your game or play. Support your community.

People who have only went once had a great experience. On girl named Tori said” The support form the school and people were supper incredible.” the support was so good and made her happy. She felt that it could of been organized better and have a little more activities.

Tori is a helper with kids who need a little more help. This is her first year and it was her first time she was very excited, and she can’t wait to go again the years after. She is a creative person and she hang out with a number of the kids. She goes to their classes and she helps them with work. She walks around with children to keep them company and to watch them. The special olympics is special to all. Not to the ones competing to the ones who watch and cheer on. It is a fun and cool experience for all and you can always come back years and years after. To me the best is when you have friends and family, so it is to late this year but next year i hope to see you support your community and the berkshire county, and go to the special olympics.


Town Government

Town meeting is both an event as it is also the legislative body of our government. The town meeting  goes on for around 3-4 hours. here in new england we have something called direct democracy were you vote for yourself unlike what you have in congress or in the state house were you have the electoral college and popular vote. Anyone can go to a town meeting as long as long as they are a citizen. If you are of age to vote you can participate. When voting, everyone gets colored paper and different colors mean different things, like a yellow piece of paper could mean “yes” and red being “no”. You can also do things like amend something. Amending something means to change what people will be voting on. So you have to than vote on if you want to change what your voting on and then vote on that new thing. The moderator of the meeting than sees if there is a clear winner in colors and if he can’t it goes to a secret ballot, were you write your answer on a paper, fold it, and pot in in the voting box, than popular vote wins.

On month ago in town meeting  there was a ban on one use plastic  water bottles. A lot of people are happy with this change but some already want it gone. Town meeting started and a group of girls came up and argued the point on the one use plastic water bottles. In order to have your   thing on the agenda, you have to get ten people to sign it. They got the ten signatures and went to town meeting and got there way and now plastic bags and one use plastic bottles are banned from Great Barrington.

The town manager of Great Barrington, Jennifer Tabakan told me that the plastic water bottle ban will most likely not progress into a full on plastic bottle ban. Even if it did get the ten signatures in needed it probably would not get passed town meeting. That would mean that people could not buy little ice creams at robin’s candy shop would not be possible, seeing as the ice cream is served in plastic cups.

by: Landon Curletti
We can all think of that one time in summer when it’s so hot we carry five water bottles with us just to keep cool, but this year that might look different. In a town meeting,Great Barrington decided that we would ban plastic water bottles. The plastic one time use water bottles ban Is great in all but as the son of two small business owners I see that we can’t keep going further with plastic containers, because if that happened than we can’t sell iced drinks like cold brew. In the summer on a hot day, we are all just looking for a way to get cool quick.

Intercultural nursing

By Jackson Potoski

A local, non-profit group called intercultural nursing goes to El Cercado in San Juan in the Dominican Republic each year to set up medical clinics. The group is made up of about twenty nurse practitioners, nursing students, and interpreters who speak spanish, but no doctors. Some of the volunteers, like Scottie Mills, a retired nurse, have been going to the DR for over twenty years, while for some the experience is a new one.

During the year, the group collects medical supplies and other things like new toothbrushes to bring on the trip. Last year Scottie Mills made homemade bags to carry things like food and medicine. Some participants set up fundraisers and raise money to buy the supplies. Others bring medicine from the hospitals that they work at, while some collect money and medicine at their church. Scottie Mills used to put a box in CHP where she worked, and other people would donate medicine.

After the supplies are rounded up the         group usually gets invited by an organization which provides a sort of dormitory to stay in for the two week trip. Each day the nurses load a truck with the medicine and drive to a new town, setting up clinics in schools, churches and even sometimes in houses. The local people then buy a ticket and get in line. The ticket is more of a sense of security than anything. The tickets cost only about 25 cents but make the people confident that they will get good help because they paid. The tickets also have numbers to keep the lines orderly because the clinics see   around 100 people per day.

During the year different clinics go to the Dominican Republic including medical clinics like intercultural nursing, but also other clinics to help build schools, houses, and other buildings. Most clinics in the area are brought in by an incredible community leader named Joanna.

With Joanna helping many different clinics the group occasionally gets some help from peace corps members  that are living in the Dominican Republic and local health care workers. Joanna also has many other ways of helping the community. She funds a elderly home, has a recycle program that then builds houses out of the plastic bottles and other thing that they find. Joanna has been there for 30 years and know nearly everyone in the community.

The trip goes beyond the medicine, the patients get to socialize with the nurses too. The patients tell stories, some being hard to listen to.

“They come with a headache but then they say that their son just got killed in a motorcycle accident and now there’s nobody to work in the field and they have these two little children because their daughter died, you know we end up like crying sometimes because the stories are so sad and there’s nothing you can really do to [help] them, you can give them an aspirin for the headache.” Said Scottie when recalling some of the things she had heard.     

The trip to the Dominican Republic is an experience for everyone involved. It helps people in need get the medicine that they have to have. It also is a socially bonding trip that lets people experience other people and their culture.


Construct: Providing a home for those who don’t have one

By: Sarah Wohl

As the costs of apartments in Southern Berkshire County rises, and job opportunities are limited, many families and individuals struggle to pay rent. One organization is fighting to help those individuals get back on their feet. “To change and save lives through housing options and a continuum of related services”. Hundreds of people’s lives have been changed and continue to change because of this mission.

Construct, a nonprofit organization based in Great Barrington, MA, was founded in 1969 by a group of church leaders and concerned citizens in response to President Johnson’s “War on Poverty”. In the first few years, Construct provided 6 houses for first-time homebuyers with a low income. After many more lives improved by this organization, it has continued to provide housing services for the most vulnerable residents within the 15 southern Berkshire towns.

The housing agency provides transitional residentency for homeless individuals or people with a very low income. Residents can stay as long as they need at Construct. In the Each building has five separate individual rooms/beds and each building has a living space, a bathroom, and a kitchen.

Construct owns and manages 8 different properties with a mix of individual and family options. “They come back at night and the space is theirs,” says June Hailer, education and housing specialist at Construct. There are ground rules regarding times to be in at night, and times to be out of the building in the morning.

While Construct would like to be able to allow a shelter to everyone in need, there is a process. First, the person has to apply and be placed on the waitlist. Applicants on the waiting list have to call in every friday to stay on the list. If they forget one week, they go down on the list. If they stop calling, it usually means they have found a new place to stay.  

During the day, residents have to be out, working to improve their situation. Residents may be going to school, volunteering, or working. “Their goal is to be able to save up some money so that they can rent their own apartment and stay stable in the community,” says June Hailer. These opportunities are provided and managed by Construct.

Construct  provides an abundance of services for residents. Residents can ask for assistance with applications for permanent affordable housing. If a person does not have their high school diploma, they can earn a GED through Construct. Construct provides morning classes two times a week, once a resident feels they are prepared,  the resident can take the final test, earning the equivalent to a high school diploma. This improves the individual’s qualification for jobs.

“A representative at Berkshire Career Center comes down here once or twice a month and meets with some of our clients about jobs,” Hailer says. They provide help with finding jobs that will help the individual get a steady income.

Construct is helping build community throughout Berkshire County by providing housing for those in need. They set an example of what more communities should strive to be, and inspire citizens to help others and be selfless.


Railroad Street Youth Project: A Place for Youth to be Valued

By: Paige Lussier

Driving around Berkshire County one might see the beautiful rolling hills, or the cute shops and restaurants. As a well known vacation destination and the perfect place for a summer home, Berkshire County isn’t a forgotten region. However, some more attention needed to be paid to the local youth a little while ago. When this was needed, the Railroad Street Youth Project (RSYP) was there to pick up the slack that others had neglected.

In 1999 Southern Berkshire was facing a crisis regarding their youth. A shocking outbreak of drug and alcohol-related deaths plagued our community. “When I was in my teens there wasn’t a Railroad Street Youth Project, and there also wasn’t a social space that we were really clearly welcomed to in town.” Ananda Timpane, the executive director at RSYP explains, “…the experience as a young person really felt like (we) really weren’t wanted in our own town.”

As teens grew up into young adults, the feeling of not being wanted fostered the unhealthy habits that started the deterioration of our community. “For 17, 18, 19, and 20 year olds… a couple of things happened at once, and one of the things that happened was, it was the first time that heroin was visible in the community.” Timpane was one of many community members that knew someone who either died or came close to dying as a result of the extreme substance abuse problem that invaded our community.
At this point, it was clear that Southern Berkshire County was in need of a substance-free space for youth to express themselves and have a place where they were wanted.

RSYP focused on connecting with the youth and creating chances for them to express themselves in healthy ways. Timpane sees the RSYP missions as, “Always meeting young people where they are in their own life and that we are always approaching are work with young people in a way that sees young people as a leader in their own lives as knowing beings.”

The youth staff at RSYP focused on youth-inspired projects, workshops, performances and publications. These were meant to connect the youth to their community through enjoyable activities.

“When we first started, we were a volunteer organization with a fund of $2,000, and so we really were just the Youth Operational Board, and so one of the most concrete ways that you can see how we have grown the impact of the mission is by looking at what programs have stuck over time, by looking at what didn’t end up being just a one time project idea”, says Timpane. Today, RSYP has branched from from their Youth Operational Board to create an extremely successful non-profit with an over $300,000 annual budget.

“Our Youth Operational Board (YOB) is made up of young folks between the ages of 14 and 25, and anybody in that age group can come to a meeting anytime, they’re tuesdays at four…” Timpane goes on to explain more about the YOB, “once a young person has attended three meetings they become a voting member, which means they have responsibility for voting on whatever commitments YOB makes to do projects itself and also for financial commitments to support youth projects that are proposed to the board for funding.”

Timpane works at the staff drop in center which provides counseling, mediation referrals, and advocacy services for the young people in need. “The drop-in center is open Monday through Friday, and from Tuesday to Friday it’s open from 3 to 7 and Monday is open from 5 to 7 and what that means is during those hours what young people are doing in the space is the most important thing that’s happening in the space.” Timpane goes on to explain how the youth are able to use the space however they see fit, sometimes that means movie nights, or open mic nights are held. More regularly that means that different clubs are held in the space.

RSYP helps youth carry-out their ideas and aspirations while helping them find where they fit in the world. RSYP strives to meet the changing needs of youth in Berkshire county. “We’re always seeing change and what happens that’s really cool with Railroad Street is that because our mission is about empowerment, young people, when they start participating in a program at Railroad Street, or working with their peers at railroad street, or connecting with staff, they get opportunities to start to make conscious decisions on how they want to learn and grow,” Timpane expresses.

Timpane explains that she and her staff work together with the youth at RSYP to help them, “Start to feel a little less stuck, because there is a lot of stuff about how our world works that can leave youth especially just feeling really stuck and like everything is prescribed and you just have to do the next thing in the rulebook, and so it really changes things when you start to feel like you have a little control over that and some control over the decisions you’re making.”

Next time you you’re in Great Barrington and you drive down Bridge Street perhaps you’ll see the RSYP Drop-in Center as more than just another brick building, it could be the place that saved a loved one’s life.

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Photos:https://mvrms.bhrsd.org/2018/06/18/yes-projects-photos/