BArT Seniors Donate to Northern Berkshire United Way
Danielle Milesi and Northern Berkshire United Way director Joseph McGovern with check that looked small but was pretty big.
ADAMS, Mass. — A group of Berkshire Arts & Techology Charter Public School seniors earned a feather for their caps this week.
A red feather to be precise.
The students in history teacher Deborah Calderara's senior seminar conceived, organized and managed two school dances that brought in exactly $1,863.50 cents. Half will go to the BArT community and half was donated to Northern Berkshire United Way on Thursday morning.
NBUW Executive Director Joseph McGovern said the $931.75 gift would make the group a member of United Way's Red Feather Society, a designation for donors giving $500 or more.
"You will be listed as a Red Feather Society in our publications," he said, to round of applause from students and educators at the school.
McGovern said Northern Berkshire United Way has reached about 79 percent of its annual campaign drive and is running a little bit ahead of last year toward its $550,000. The umbrella organization for 23 local charities has been struggling to reach its campaign goals over the last few years because of the economic downturn.
"I'm optimistic that this will be the first year since then that we'll make our goal," he said. "I feel we're going to get closer."
NBUW depends on individual and corporate contributions to aid agencies that provide a gamut of services to Northern Berkshire residents of all ages and situations.
It's not unusual for a company or school or group to call with a donations, McGovern. "This happens in North County all the time.
"The people in Northern Berkshire do the best they can to help each other."
The community service learning project at BArT was designed to promote skills such as organization, time management, teamwork and leadership, while offering the teens a chance to give to the community. But once the money was raised, there was the big question of where it should go.
"We decided to donate it to United Way because it was going to be to difficult to pick one charity," said Danielle Milesi, one of the 11 students running the dances. "This way it goes to more of them."
"It's great to see students getting involved in their community," said NBUW campaign co-Chairman Osmin Alvarez, publisher of iBerkshires.com. "The Northern Berkshire United Way touches so many people in a positive way and to see the BArT students understanding that and volunteering to play a role in helping us to raise funds says a lot about the character of these students and our community."
Milesi and a couple classmates thought of putting on a dance last year. (There are other students in the class working on a different project.) The fall dance was deemed a success and more seniors joined the effort to put on a two-part middle and high school Snowball.
That's where most of the money came from. The students accepted donations, a can drive that generated $75 and put up $325 of their own money to get decorations, food, snacks, dishes and all the accoutrements for a formal event.
Dyllan McLear had a sure fire way for boosting attendance: "I told them if they came I would wear a dress." And he did.
Brad Pandell's photo booth proved a huge success in raising money, while other students were posted as ticket takers, snack vendors and other spots. "We all had assigned roles," said Jacob McNicol. "The snack table was cool because we got to eat what leftover."
The students said they worked hard — and cleaned up every bit of glitter — and felt they had really sharpened their time management and leadership skills, and learned to work as a group.
"I think it was a great lesson not only what they did for the community but what they could do collaboratively," said Calderara.
The donation joins others still coming in for the Northern Berkshire United Way, which has added a Paypal option to its website to make it easier to contribute. McGovern said the feedback has been positive on the online donating.
The final tally for the drive will be announced at the annual breakfast in May. McGovern reminded readers that "we will end up taking donations right up to the breakfast."
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