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New Pilot Program to Reach out to Young Women of Color in Berkshire County
01:46PM / Wednesday, February 17, 2010
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Youth Alive, in cooperation with the Women of Color Giving Circle, the City of Pittsfield Office of Cultural Development and the Pittsfield Public Schools, is launching a new educational program for adolescent girls called Rite of Passage.

Rite of Passage is an initiative designed to celebrate and honor the entry of adolescent girls into womanhood and provide them with skills and knowledge that they need to be successful, independent and responsible. Rite of Passage is designed to help participants discover their inner voice and support all components of personal development.

Berkshire County Rite of Passage was designed by Shirley Edgerton, who has a Master’s degree in education from MCLA and is program director for the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services in Berkshire County, executive director of Youth Alive, and founder of the Women of Color Giving Circle of Berkshire County.

Beginning in March 2010, a group of up to 15 female high school students will meet weekly with a variety of experienced professionals. Instructors include psychologists Maria Sirois and Tameka Gillum; educator Claudette Webster; and Marla Robertson. Participants will be nominated by a variety of agencies and organizations, including Youth Alive, the Pittsfield Youth Commission, Manos Unidos, and the Pittsfield Public Schools.

The biweekly classes will include focusing on exploring self-worth, self-esteem, interests, skills and abilities; an overview of women of color who have made significant contributions particularly in Berkshire County; respecting and embracing other cultures and developing personal strength to withstand challenges in life.

The participants will also attend two field trips, one to visit the Brooklyn Academy of Music and other cultural sites in New York City, and the other a road tour of historically black colleges and universities.

Berkshire County Rite of Passage is launching in Pittsfield this spring and plans to expand to the rest of Berkshire County in the near future. The pilot program is funded in part by Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area.

A cabaret-style fundraiser for Rite of Passage will be hosted by Jae's Spice on Saturday, March 6 at 7 p.m., and will feature live music by three local performers who are donating their talents: jazz singer Wanda Houston accompanied by Andy Kelly and friends, classical singer Jennifer Poole, and blues singer Gina Coleman and her band Misty Blues. There will be light appetizers and a cash bar. Tickets are $15 and will be available at the door.

For more information about the Rite of Passage program, contact Shirley Edgerton at or 413-841-8770.
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