Letter: Barrett Has Energy, Ideas for 1st Berkshire

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To the editor:

The 1st Berkshire District is ready to lead the state with creative solutions to municipal challenges and rigorous business development. John Barrett III has the ideas, energy, connections, and most importantly, the experience to move our portion of the commonwealth in this direction.

I am proud to say that I was born and raised in the city of North Adams. I attended local schools and graduated from Drury High School in 1993. During this time I watched as Mayor Barrett worked tirelessly – late nights, weekends, whatever was necessary, to transform our City into a center for high quality jobs, education, and continued quality of life.

The proverbial "stamp" of his hard work is still evident to everyone living in North Adams today. John Barrett had the foresight to work to bring Mass MoCA to our town when so many had their doubts about cultural arts thriving in our community.

While Mr. Barrett was mayor, he never lost sight of his roots in education and successfully brought the Brayton Elementary School project to fruition, consolidating many resources and working collaboratively with the superintendent of schools and School Committee members to secure many grants that funded several literacy initiatives for our youngest learners. Even now, John Barrett is still working hard for education in his roles where he serves presently on the board of trustees at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and teaches a winter study course on politics as an adjunct professor at Williams College.

There is no question that John Barrett is a proven leader with integrity, character and courage. He was the longest-serving mayor in Massachusetts with 13 consecutive two-year terms, and he is credited for drawing North Adams out of the doldrums of the post-Sprague Electric era. 

His respect, open access, and willingness to listen to our local voices sets him apart from others in this race. What is often overlooked during these elections, however, are the personal connections that candidates make with those who are most affected by some of the real-life problems we all face. This is where John not only excels, but stands apart


from everyone else.

In 1995 my brother, Michael Sarkis, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer. This was a very aggressive cancer and very rare in an otherwise healthy 19-year-old boy. In the blink of an eye my family was uprooted and living in an efficiency hotel in Worcester while my brother was being treated at UMass Medical Center. We were far from home in time before cell phones, social media and ways to stay connected.

It was the holiday season. Mike was struggling. We were missing home. Our family received a call from the mayor's office. John Barrett called personally to share that he knew all about my brother's story and told us that he would be dedicating the tree lighting ceremony in the North Adams to my brother so that we knew in Worcester that our neighbors and friends at home were with us in Mike's fight. The ceremony was recorded on audio cassette and friends brought it to us at the hospital so we could all listen together to hear the cheers and the heart-felt words from home.

Thanks to John's thoughtfulness, my mother still has this recording with her to this day. John Barrett stayed connected with our family during the entire 14 months of my brother's illness. There were phone calls to check in and donations from John and the people of North Adams to help us with our stay. When Mike passed away on December 25, 1996, Mayor Barrett was there for us again at both the calling hours and funeral. To this very day he hasn't forgotten our family and we haven't forgotten his kindness.

We are not unique in our story of John Barrett's quiet compassion. Many residents in the City of North Adams can remember times when John made donations to assist them, or when he took the time to just listen over a cup of coffee in their homes. There were no rallies or announcements to "celebrate" his generosity. He expected no recognition or accolades. To this day, John Barrett stays connected to the people in our community because he has personally walked their walks and understands their journeys.

Electing the right person to represent the 1st District of Berkshire County is a serious responsibility; one that is tremendously important to the citizens of Northern Berkshire County. We can't afford to wait to see if someone promising "change" or "new visions" or a "creative approach" has the knowledge, the plan, and the stamina to resolve the serious issues facing our communities on this side of the state. Our needs are too pressing and our time is now.

John Barrett is deeply committed to our local communities. He has already proven that he understands the need to work hard to bridge the gap between Berkshire County and Boston. He will work toward common sense solutions that will help us here, at home, on the issues of funding for education, bringing more well paying jobs to our area, and ensuring a continued high quality of life for generations to come. As mayor, he already proved he could do it once. It's time to vote him into office as state representative and let him work for us and do it again.

Michelle Sarkis Colvin
Pittsfield, Mass.

 

 


Tags: 1st Berkshire,   election 2017,   


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Be Alert for Opportunities When Preparing for College Costs

Now that summer is winding down, it will soon be "back-to-school" time. When children are young, your logistics for the new academic year may involve little more than a trip to buy school supplies.

But if you would like to send your kids (or grandkids) to college someday, you need to plan far ahead to meet the financial demands. And, as part of your planning, you also need to be on the lookout for all opportunities to help pay those sizable college bills.

Specifically, you will need to be ready to take action in these areas:

Financial aid:
You should start thinking about financial aid at least a year before your child heads off to college. For example, you can begin submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on Oct. 1, 2019, for the 2020-21 academic year. And if the past is any guide, you will always need to remember that Oct. 1 date for the next school year. The FAFSA helps colleges and the U.S. Department of Education evaluate your financial need and determine how much financial support your child requires. And since a lot of financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it's a good idea to submit your forms as soon as possible once the application period opens.

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