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CTE students decorate downtown Pittsfield Monday, Nov. 28.

Taconic CTE Students Decorate Downtown Pittsfield

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Taconic High School Career Technical Education (CTE) program has partnered with the City of Pittsfield and a variety of nonprofits to help students engage in the community and build their skills.
"It's important that they know they can make a difference, and they are active participants in making our community better through their actions and their participation," Assistant Superintendent Tammy Gage said. "So letting them know they have a voice and their contributions are just as meaningful as the adults allows our students to feel more accepted."
The most recent initiative that the electrical students undertook was decorating the city with Christmas lights on Monday, Nov. 28.
"This allows them to work on ladder safety - just being aware of your surroundings with all the vehicles and the people around. And also, just to be involved in community and try to help in any way possible. Every little bit helps when it comes to community. So just take the first step of being involved," Electrical Teacher Bill DeMarco said. "Everywhere has problems\ but maybe this will help showcase some of the good and change that perspective a little." 
City Councilor Patrick Kavey said this is something the city had wanted to do but struggled to find the staff to accomplish the feat.
This opportunity gives the students real-world experiences and allows them to learn skills like teamwork, electrical student Zachary Farina said.  
"It’s satisfying to kind of just be out here and just working outside with my friends, and it's fun to be out here," he said. "I hope they just like the lights brighten up North Street and just brighten up the city and make it look better."
The group of students has taken on a plethora of projects around the city including building a new garage for the Highway Department.
The city originally had a garage on West Housatonic Street but it burnt down. Since then they have not replaced it. 
The project would give carpentry and electrical CTE students the opportunity to work with local contractors and other professionals training them. 
This project is still in process, and the city is looking for grant funding and determining the scope of the project, Kavey said.
"I think it's extremely important to provide these opportunities to our students because they are the future of our city," Kavey said. "So in order for our city to thrive, we have to give our young people the tools that they need to get into our workforce and be successful."
Until then, the students are working with the city to complete little projects including rebuilding the highway department's ramp that is in need of repair. 
In addition to working with the city, the CTE program is working with local nonprofits.
The electrical program students installed doorbells for Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity's new builds. 
In addition to that, the carpentry students rebuilt the National Guard sign on Valentine Road, and the horticulture students beautified Veterans Park for Veterans Day. 
The idea to work with the community to improve access to jobs after graduation started when Kavey and Commissioner of Public Utilities Ricardo Morales proposed a new Business Technology Program to the school.
During the discussions with Taconic, Morales and Kavey said there were some shops that did not have a co-op partner making it more difficult for students not continuing on to secondary education to find jobs.
These co-op partners help students network with surrounding businesses.
The CTE program also provides students with a well-rounded education that prepares them for any path they choose to take whether it be continuing to secondary education, trade schools, or apprenticeships, Gage said.
Gage said the relationships students build with the city and nonprofits are integral to their success
She added that students' ability to see themselves in a future workforce and immerse themselves in the interest is one of the things that makes the program a success. She added that  It is important for students and parents to see that the skills learned through the program have an effect on the community.
"I think it's a way to showcase that our students are doing meaningful work. That they're capable of so much more. That they are a part of our community solution to make things better and make things stronger in our community," she said. 

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Owner of Abandoned Cats Pleads Guilty to Animal Cruelty

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A woman accused of abandoning more than a dozen cats during snowstorm a year ago has pleaded guilty. 
Kelly Hathaway of Pittsfield pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of animal cruelty in Central Berkshire District Court as part of a plea agreement. Following the plea agreement, she was ordered to have a mental health evaluation and follow any after care as instructed by the court.
She was placed on two years probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service. She is not allowed to possess any animals and was ordered to surrender any she has in her care. She is also prohibited from volunteering with any animal groups.
Hathaway and another defendant were charged last March with abandoning 15 cats on back roads in Richmond and Lanesborough after an investigation by Lanesborough Police, Lanesborough Animal Control and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
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