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Pittsfield Recognizes Top Students for Academic Excellence

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two high school seniors were honored earlier this fall for their excellence in academic achievement and community involvement.
Alexandra Swanson of Pittsfield High School and Benjamin Vengalil of Taconic High School were both recognized with the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents' Certificate of Academic Excellence.
The presentations were made Superintendent Jason McCandless prior to his departure to Mount Greylock Regional School District.
The awards are given to high school students who have distinguished themselves in the pursuit of academic excellence during and have achieved the highest grade average at their school.
"I hope that life sometimes affords you the opportunity to maybe write a parenting book to assist the rest of us in our endeavors as moms and dads and as people raising children," McCandless said to Swanson and Vengalil during the televised presentation. "What remarkable students, but also what remarkable families are being honored here tonight."
The scholars were joined by their families and school counselors to accept the award virtually at the Oct. 28 Pittsfield School Committee meeting.
Swanson is ranked No. 1 in her class of 175 with a cumulative grade average of 103.1. Throughout her four years at PHS, she has completed courses in honors and Advance Placement levels. Upon graduation, she will have completed 12 AP courses, receiving a 5/5 in AP Statistics and a perfect score on the math section of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests.
This semester, Swanson is also taking a statistics course through Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and is enrolled in an astrobiology course at Williams College.
She is also a member of the school's Quiz Team, Math Club, and varsity soccer team. In the community, she is a member of the Keystone Youth Leadership group through the Boys and Girls Club of Pittsfield and tutors elementary pupils in mathematics.
Swanson's many academic achievements include being presented the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Medal in her junior year, earning high honors every quarter in high school, and graduating as an AP Scholar.
Her teachers stated that Swanson is an asset to their classrooms and brings a true understanding of the course content and is willing to assist others within the class in a respectful manner.
She was recognized by school counselor Ann Marie Mutz for being "talented, disciplined, and an extremely bright young woman who is also the most down to earth and welcoming person one could meet."
Swanson plans to study mathematics and she has applied to colleges including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Williams, Tufts, Cornell, and Rensselaer.
"I'm the lucky one on this whole screen, in addition to her mom, who's had the chance to work so closely with you and you are such an amazing advocate for your future," Mutz said. "It truly has been an honor to work so closely with you and I am so proud of you and I can't wait to see how all of your hard work pays off."
Vengalil ranks first in his class at Taconic with a cumulative grade average of 103.5, scoring advanced on all three MCAS exams required for graduation with a perfect score on the mathematics exam.
He is an AP Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society, taking three AP courses, two honors courses, and two dual enrollment courses for college credit in his senior year. Over the summer, Vengalil also took a dual enrollment statistics course at MCLA.
Vengalil was selected as one of two students to attend the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Conference in his sophomore year. Students representatives are chosen based on who will make positive impact and will share what they learn.
He is a member of the Berkshire County NAACP and the Link Crew freshman mentoring program, where he puts his leadership skills to good use.
Vengalil is an active member of the Taconic community as a varsity soccer member since his freshman year and captain in his sophomore year, and is a member of the performing arts program.  
He was selected to sing at Carnegie Hall in the Honors Performance Series and has consistently been in the school's spring musicals. This previous year, Vengalil played the role of the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz."
School counselor Kathryn Pratt says Vengalil is invested in making Taconic High School a better place to go to school, and Berkshire County a better place to live.
"You make my job easy," Pratt said. "You are a model student, you are kind, you're compassionate, you care about Taconic, you care about your peers, you care about everything you do, and I can't thank you enough for everything that you've taught me in my role as a school counselor."
He is planning to attend medical school has applied to colleges such as Brown, Boston University, RPI, Penn State, Tufts and University of Connecticut that have medical school partners.  
Swanson thanked Mutz and the teachers at PHS for assisting her in her high school career, saying she couldn't have done it without them.
Vengalil thanked everyone involved in his education, extending the biggest thanks to his family for pushing him. "Thank you so much for the hands-on role you took in shaping me into the scholar that I am today," he said. 

Tags: academic award,   

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Methuselah Loses License for Two Days

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A bar and restaurant owned by a city councilor had its license suspended for two days for violating state COVID-19 guidelines.

On Monday, the Licensing Board voted to suspend Councilor at Large Yuki Cohen's liquor license for Methuselah Bar and Lounge, scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, after a hearing for three alleged pandemic violation complaints that included pictures and anonymous testimony.

Because of the anonymous nature of the evidence submitted, the board weighed in on the fact that this is not Cohen's first time in front of the Licensing Board, as Methuselah faced a five-day liquor license suspension in 2018.

"I feel like in light of what the history is, I don't think we can just pretend that there's no history,"  Chairman Thomas Campoli said, concluding with the other board members that this case had to be handled differently than if it was a first violation.

On Jan. 15, the board held a hearing for two of the violations occurring on Aug. 22 and Dec. 11. It was decided to continue the hearing for the third violation and voting until Monday, Jan. 25.

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