State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and Sen. Benjamin B. Downing speak with students at the Maple Grove Civic Club on Sunday.
ADAMS, Mass. — Students from Berkshire Arts & Technology Public Charter and Hoosac Valley HIgh schools held a panel at the Maple Grove Civic Club meeting Sunday to discuss education with sate Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing.
The panel discussed the importance of the youth voice in government, education, and community. Downing explained the needed perspective of younger people, and the importance of them getting involved.
"You have ideas about how to link your generation both with upcoming generations and with generations that have come before you," Downing said. "Use the voice and the power you have."
The panel addressed both legislators and asked what they thought students could do to instill change in the classroom and in the community. Cariddi, who represents North Berkshire, explained the importance of direct communication with the government.
"We really do need to hear from the students," the North Adams Democrat said. "I think that one of the areas is your age group that we don't really hear from on an individual basis."
Students then expressed the changes they would like to see in the town of Adams. They explained their concern for the lack of places youth can enjoy. BArT student Kuwanna Bobbitt felt as though the removal of the Wacky World park was detrimental to the youth of Adams.
"It hurt me when the town decided to take down Wacky World because that was one of the places the little kids could " Bobbitt said. "We are starting to take things away from the little kids."
(The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District determined the wooden structure could not be salvaged and is working with the Plunkett Elementary School PTO to raise funds replace it with more modern equipment.)
BArT student J.D. Dix had similar concerns with Renfrew Field, saying the park is often locked and cannot be used by the town's youth.
"I know a lot of kids that would love to get together and play Whiffle ball because they hear stories from their parents about how they used to get all together and play on the weekends," he said.
Lauren Cornell, also from BArT, also shared her concern about the lack of venues for youth to get involved and help the community of Adams. She advocated for a center where teenagers could meet and organize community projects.
"Whether it be to plant trees or to help out the little kids and be role models to them, I feel that there needs to be something where we can reach out and help others," Cornell said. "That would make us feel better about ourselves and make others happy."
Cariddi and Downing then asked the student panel what changes they would like to see in education. Hoosac Valley student Ben Trimarchi explained his concern with the amount of students in school's classrooms.
"I have found myself in classes all throughout high school where I am sitting in the back and there are 29 kids in front of me, and they all have their hands up and are asking different questions," Trimarchi said. "I think if there could be more teachers and more options for classes it could spread out the class sizes and kids would get a better education."
Cornell said she feels students do not have enough input in their education and that they should be able to share their opinions on curriculum decisions.
"I think what would make our school a little better is if we were able to have debates on different topics and bring some fun activities into the school curriculum," she said.
Cariddi concluded the event by showing her appreciation for active students who look to get involved in their education and community.
"I am really very much impressed with all off the students that were here today and I congratulate each of you," she said. "I hope there are other students in your schools that are just as much involved in their community."
The Maple Grove Civic Club invites speakers of interest to its monthly meetings at the Polish National Alliance Hall. Meetings are held the third Sunday of the month from fall through spring; new members are always welcome.