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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

$5K Award To "Spice Up Your County"

12:00AM / Saturday, February 17, 2007

“Spice Up Your County,” a contest recently announced by the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition’s UNITY program, is one of the largest opportunities local teens have ever been offered to put other people’s money where their mouth is.

The hefty $5000 prize will go to the group of teenagers whose answer to the contest question “What are you going to do with $5000 to improve the lives of teens in Northern Berkshire County?” is selected by their peers in a school-based election.

The enormity of this contest reflects the fact that it combines the overall mission of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (to improve the quality of life for people in Northern Berkshire by organizing, supporting, and empowering the community) with the mission of UNITY (to empower youth across town lines to make a difference in their schools, their communities and themselves).

“It will be fascinating to see the variety of ways of making a difference that will flow from the energetic, idealistic minds of our teenagers,” said UNITY Program Coordinator Mary Parkman.

“Our youth development philosophy is that we treat youth as trusted resources for themselves, peers, families and the community,” Coalition Executive Director Alan Bashevkin pointed out. “This contest is a concrete, practical way of demonstrating that trust.”

There are many programs that offer young people the chance to make a difference in their communities, but teens rarely get the chance to devise the program from scratch. As John W. Gardner, former Secretary of the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare, once said, "All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants."

Rules are in place to make sure that the project selected will stick to the UNITY program’s mission; for example, it must be devised by a group of teenagers who come from at least two different schools. And the project includes funding for an adult mentor to oversee how the proposal is put into effect.

A full set of rules and the official application form can be downloaded from a www.nbccoalition.org/spice.pdf NBCC site.

The deadline for submissions is March 16, 2007, after which the applications will be put in the hands of area schools for final selection by the students.

For more information, contact Mary Parkman at 663-7588, or by e-mail at mparkman@nbccoalition.org .
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