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Saturday, Jun 27, 2015

Berkshire Graduates Receive Nearly $80,000 in College Scholarships

CANAAN—Family members cheered loudly at the Berkshire Junior Senior High School Graduation and Recognition Ceremony, Friday, when Mike Mitchell, Principal, read the list of graduates receiving a total of nearly $80,000 in scholarships to attend a variety of colleges in the fall. Families, staff, and students of both Berkshire Junior Senior High School and the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy attended the ceremony, which recognized 16 for achieving New York Regents diplomas, local diplomas, or passing a high school equivalency test called the TASC.

Timothy Giacchetta, president of the Berkshire Free Union School District and CEO of Berkshire Farm Center, began his remarks with good news.

“I am proud to announce that for the seventh consecutive year Berkshire’s graduation rate for eligible seniors remains at 100 percent,” he said. “We have eight Berkshire graduates earning their diplomas today and six students graduating from our newly created sister program in Hudson.”

Giacchetta added that the school is one of only a few New York Schools eligible to grant an elite new Career Credential Certificate from the New York State Education Department. “Over the course of this year, 93 students completed all the work requirements to receive this recognition.”

Two students, Isaiah Carr-Hinds and Gualberto Negron, provided keynote speeches that captured the essence of the ceremony. Carr-Hinds, a graduating senior from the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy in Hudson, spoke about how interactions with Berkshire had changed his life. “Learning wasn’t always easy for me, so I often acted out in class,” he said.

He explained that his experiences during school left him feeling alone and bullied. After one run-in, he stood up to a bully, he said, “unfortunately, that is the day I became the bully. I felt strong and I wasn’t going to let anyone hurt me anymore.” He said he hit rock bottom after being arrested and spending two nights in jail. “I was given a second chance at Berkshire, which was the start of creating who I am today.”

He said that Berkshire taught him to control his emotions and behavior and focus on his goals. His grades went from the 60s to the 90s. He made honor roll, landed a job at a local restaurant, and is now on his way to study automotive technology at Dutchess Community College.

“The people here at Berkshire were the ones who helped me turn my life around,” he said. “They took the time to get to know me. They believed in me and helped me even when I slipped up and made mistakes. I want to take this time to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported me.”

At age eight, Negron witnessed someone’s being shot and stabbed near a neighborhood deli. “From that day on,” he said, “I felt like I was alone, that no one had my back or was looking out for my safety.” To obtain a sense of control, Negron explained that he took to stealing and fighting. “By 12 years old, my community saw me as a menace,” he said.

For Negron, the impetus for change came from his mother. “I decided I never wanted to see her cry again. That was the day I realized I wanted to change my life. Berkshire helped me with that. This summer I’ll be going home. I’ll leave here a new person. When I go home I want to get a job, finish high school, and go to college.”

More than $20,000 of the scholarships awarded Friday came from the Mott Family Scholarship fund, which was started by Charles H. Mott of New York City. Mott has served as a member of the Berkshire Board of Directors for 40 years. He created the scholarship to give Berkshire Junior Senior High School graduates and alumni the opportunity to continue their academic success beyond high school. Each graduating senior also received a Chromebook donated by Whalley Computer Associates of Southwick, Mass.

In addition to recognizing the graduating seniors, the ceremony also presented 20 awards to students for achievements ranging from oral communication skills to independent reading, artistic excellence, information technology, community service, and commitment to a healthy environment.

“Today’s theme is ‘life is about creating yourself’ ” Giacchetta added. “I am confident that everyone here will agree with me that this year’s students and graduates have not only taken an important step towards creating themselves, but more importantly, they now know who they can become.”

About Berkshire Farm Center
Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth is New York’s leading non-profit child welfare agency. With programs ranging from family preservation services to foster care, residential treatment, and education, Berkshire touches the lives of more than 8000 youth each year. Its mission is strengthen children and families so they can live safely, independently, and productively within their home communities. Berkshire is affiliated with the Berkshire Free Union School District, which operates Berkshire Junior Senior High School in Canaan and the Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy in Hudson.

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