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Sixth-graders in the Williamstown Youth Center after-school program gather for a group photo with the donated tablets, including WYC Executive Director Michael Williams and John Maher of Charter Communications in the center.

Williamstown Youth Center Receives Donation of 25 Tablets

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Youth Center director Michael Williams speaks at the presentation in the center's gym. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown Youth Center could have started a Writers' Club for its afterschool program that involved having the kids sit down and print their musings by hand.
 
But thanks to a donation from Charter Communications, the cable and internet provider known locally as Spectrum, the facility has 25 brand-new tablets to help engage youngsters.
 
"It's not really writing if you're on a screen, right," WYC Executive Director Michael Williams joked on Wednesday afternoon.
 
Williams emceed a brief ceremony in the center's gymnasium that allowed the dozens of kids in the after-school program and local dignitaries to thank representatives from Charter for its donation to the WYC.
 
In addition to the tablets, the communications company is donating $2,000 that will be used to sponsor two youth basketball teams and support the youth center's financial aid and scholarship programs.
 
Williams said the center will find a number of uses for the tablets in its programming for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. The Writers' Club, initially open to fifth- and sixth-graders, is just the start, but it's an important addition to the artistic, social and athletic offerings available every day until 5:30 p.m.
 
"The donation of these tablets was the impetus," Williams said. "It gave us the idea that we could do something like this.
 
"I want it to be creative, and I want it to be different enough from school that the kids are interested. But basically what we're trying to do is help kids express themselves. … I'll be doing it on Tuesday afternoons. We'll start at 5 and go from 5 to 6, so the parents will pick their kids up a little later on those days. We'll probably have a group of eight or nine to start with — very informal.
 
"We'll sit around [a table], and I'll start off with a theme. I'm thinking the first theme might be 'My favorite place.' And we'll take a turn each writing a little something about it. And we'll come back the next week and talk about it and do another assignment."
 
Williams used Wednesday's event as an opportunity to recognize the contributions of all those bodies that support the youth center, including town officials, the Williamstown Community Chest and the elementary school.
 
"We're only able to do what we do at the youth center because of the help from people in our community," Williams told the children.
 
State Sen. Adam Hinds talked about the importance of contributions from businesses like Charter.
 
"We just passed a major bill that said we're going to spend $1.5 billion more every single year than we already do just to make sure that you all get the education you deserve," Hinds said. "That's pretty important.
 
"There is one lesson I've learned so far, and that's that we put a lot of money into the government side and making sure our roads are paved and everything else. But, ultimately, what really makes things work is when we're working with companies as well."
 
A Charter spokesman said his company is committed to making technology accessible to all, and the tablets are just part of that effort.
 
"Today's a good example of how Spectrum works with a variety of diverse organizations doing impactful, meaningful work for our communities and neighborhoods," said John Maher, Charter's director of state government affairs.
 
"We're finding that technology's become more and more prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Therefore, it is imperative to reduce barriers for access to broadband technology."
 
In addition to the donation of hardware to the youth center, Maher touted Spectrum's "Internet Assist" program, which provides low-cost high-speed broadband service to residential customers who qualify for specific government income-based programs.
 
Hinds echoed Maher's emphasis on the growing importance of access and exposure to technology like the tablets donated Wednesday.
 
"We're making sure that every town has high-speed internet and making sure that our communication networks are where they need to be," Hinds told the children. "We're thinking about: What do we do for the future for you all. And, I'll tell you, you haven't figured it out yet … video games are just the beginning.
 
"Our whole lives are being run by the internet. What that means is you've got to know what it looks like to be involved in the digital space. And that's why having these 25 tablets contributed for after-school programming is such an important piece to make sure you constantly have exposure to the world that you're entering."

Tags: donations,   information technology,   spectrum,   williamstown youth center,   

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Williams Anthropologist Receives Grant to Support Climate Change Research

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Kim Gutschow, lecturer in religion and anthropology at Williams College, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Geographic Society to fund a project titled "Climate Change Adaptation: By the People & For the People" in the Ladakh region of India.

The grant was co-written and co-conceived with Robin Sears, research associate in anthropology at Williams, and includes an international team comprised of Gutschow, Sears and four Ladakhi individuals who have been active in climate change adaptation and social justice work for the past 30 years.

Climate change and modernization have introduced unprecedented risk in high-altitude Himalayan societies such as Ladakh, which spans the upper Indus watershed. Gutschow and Sears will direct a team of Ladakhi youth and women to conduct research and advocate for specific interventions that can best address the local impacts of climate change in their region, such as water shortages from variably shrinking glaciers and reduced snowfall; declining food security due to rising temperatures and more frequent locust plagues; and occasional glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) or floods from extreme cloudbursts.

The project examines local strategies for coping with the effects of climate change and modernization as men and youth have left villages to seek jobs and education in urban centers, leaving the bulk of farming in the hands of women and the elderly.

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