BCC Foundation Lends Financial Assistance to Paraprofessional Program

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In January 2022, Berkshire Community College (BCC) partnered with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) to form the Associates to Bachelors Pathway to Licensure for Paraprofessionals, known as the P2T Cohort. 
The goal: to provide an efficient pathway to teacher licensure.  
Now, the P2T Cohort is getting additional support from the Berkshire Community College Foundation, which has pledged $16,000 in support of professional mentorship expenses related to the program. 
"The Massachusetts Early Education and Care (EEC) Career Pathways Grant has been using a mentor model for several years and has had great success with it," said BCC Associate Professor of Education Barbara Kotelnicki. "The mentor can offer students tips, study strategies, assistance with academic questions, reminders of where to focus their energies and encouragement?to keep plugging along. That's why we are particularly grateful to the Foundation for recognizing the need for a mentor in our growing P2T Cohort." 
The mentor for the program at BCC, Gabriela Sheehan, attends education classes with paraprofessional students, meets weekly or as needed with them, helps identify resources they might find useful for a project or paper and offers specific feedback on their work.  
"It might be easier and less scary for some students to ask their mentor for help rather than their professor," Kotelnicki said. "Gabriela is their biggest cheerleader and teaches them to advocate for themselves. Whether it is encouraging them to take the big leap toward earning an associate degree or preparing for a presentation, she is there to support them every step of the way. As a former public school educator, she has extensive knowledge and wisdom to share." 
Paraprofessionals support students under the supervision of a teacher. The P2T Cohort is specifically designed for paraprofessionals employed by pre-K–12 schools in Berkshire County. Through a combination of in-person and virtual classes, the cohort offers a thoughtful blend of classroom and field-based experiences that prepare students to make a meaningful impact in their school communities.  
The innovative program also provides flexibility to meet the needs of participants with either some or no prior college experience, ultimately allowing paraprofessionals to earn an associate degree at BCC and then transfer to MCLA to earn a bachelor degree and a teaching license. 
"Over the past several years, paraprofessionals in the field have been tasked with more responsibility and little training or professional development," Kotelnicki said, noting that after MCLA conducted a survey of such employees, many respondents said they would be interested in professional development and becoming classroom teachers. This discovery led to the creation of the P2T Cohort. 
Grants from the Commonwealth's Department of Higher Education (DHE), as well as its MassReconnect program, offer funding to Massachusetts residents who are currently employed as paraprofessionals in Massachusetts public schools for at least two years and who wish to become certified as full-time teachers.?  

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West Side Residents Build Ideal Neighborhood At Zoning Session

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Program manager James McGrath opens the session at Conte Community School.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Residents mapped out a West Side they would like to see during an input session this week, utilizing multi-use properties to create robust density.

Held at Conte Community School on Monday, this was the second meeting of a project to examine zoning in the neighborhood. The Department of Community Development, in partnership with Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, has been working with an urban planning and design consulting team on the effort that will conclude on June 30.

"This is a really important project for your neighborhood," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

Multifamily houses with spaces to accommodate a small business were popular. A community center, church, year-round farmer's market, and even a place to draw in commerce appeared as elements on the tabletop street.

An emphasis was also placed on the amount of immigrants coming to the area in need of housing.

Max Douhoure, community outreach coordinator for Habitat, explained that he grew up in Africa where people liked to live together, which his build reflected.

"I wanted to improve their conditions," he said. "That’s what I did."

During the first meeting in November, the team heard desires for businesses and commercial uses — including a need for small, family-owned business support. The session provided an overview of what zoning is, what zoning can and can't do, how zoning can improve the community, and the impact on residents.

"Today's exercise is really about creating spaces in buildings and on properties to do a combination of residential [uses] that meet the needs and commercial uses that meet the needs of the neighborhood,"  Emily Keys Innes, principal of Innes Associates explained.

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