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Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012

Berkshire Expands 'BEST' Program

NY State Education Dept. extends grant

High school students at Berkshire Farm Center’s residential treatment campus will continue to benefit from highly creative and effective after-school learning opportunities this year. The BEST (Berkshire Enrichment, Support, Training) program is receiving additional funding from the New York State Education Department.

“This will enable Berkshire to continue a number of exciting after-school activities that have been proven effective at improving student grades and behaviors,” said Timothy Giacchetta, CEO of Berkshire Farm Center & Services for Youth.

The campus in Canaan, New York includes Berkshire Jr./Sr. High School, a special act high school. The state-of-the-art school is administered by Berkshire Union Free School District and features a low student/teacher ratio plus additional measures to help students, age 13-18 who have serious learning, behavioral, and other issues.

Mr. Giacchetta explained that, although the additional funding is at a 60% funding level, Berkshire has been developing ways to embed BEST program objectives into sustainable practices. “Despite the reduction in funding, we will be able to extend and even enhance several of these highly effective programs funded by the original grant,” he said.

Funding for BEST comes from a 2009 grant from the U.S. Education Department’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, administered in New York by the New York State Education Department. This program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment and positive youth development opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty schools. It also helps students meet state and local student standards in core academic subjects such as reading, math, and English.

The additional NYSED funding will enable Berkshire to continue providing much of its expanded learning opportunities for students who have been removed from their homes across New York State by the Child Welfare or Juvenile Justice Systems or placed through New York State school systems. The serious issues these children face have led to failure at home, in school, and in their communities.

imageBEST provides creative, non-traditional activities during non-school hours to help these students improve their grades, attitudes, and behaviors – students like Gilbert T. (photo at right), who came to Berkshire in 2010, but today, the now 15 year old Gilbert has been named Junior Leader in the National Youth Program Using Minibikes (NYPUM) program, a hands-on motivational and instructional program boosting students’ self-esteem, respect for others, and teamwork.

There are other students like Gilbert in the BEST program, engaging in activities that enhance their science, math, and English skills, and help them prepare for their return to their homes and communities.

In addition to residential services on campus, Berkshire Farm Center offers an array of highly effective, evidence-based programming for children and families across New York State, including programs designed to prevent out-of-home placement of children of all ages. When a child must be removed from their home, Berkshire provides various levels of care, from foster care, to group homes, to non-secure and secure detention for males and females. The principal goal is always the same: to keep children and their families together whenever possible, and safely return children to their homes as soon as possible.

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