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Friday, Nov 7, 2014

Bridge program to expand, relocate - Article in Register Star newspaper

Published in the Register Star newspaper, Friday, November 7, 2014
By Arthur Cusano, Columbia-Greene Media

The Columbia-Greene Partnership Academy in Hudson is adding new work training programs and looking to move and expand into a new location just down the street.

The Berkshire Union Free School District’s alternative education program, also known as the The Bridge, opened last January at 364 Warren Street and serves students from the Hudson City School District and Catskill Central School District.

In an event held at the school Thursday night, in conjunction with the Columbia and Greene County Chambers of Commerce. Berkshire Union Superintendent Bruce Potter said that two major announcements would allow more students from other Columbia and Greene county school districts to take part in the program.

One of those major announcements came from Mary-Alane Wiltse of the Workforce Investment Board of Columbia-Greene Counties, who said a $25,000 Workforce New York grant would be funding a new job placement program with Columbia and Greene county businesses.

"As a business member, if you want to take on an intern at your business and give them the opportunity, the funding that is provided by the workforce board can pay their salaries" Wiltse said. "If you give these kids a chance by offering your time and your talent and your mentorship, we will provide the salary."

Potter said studies showed when students who fall into the poverty, minority and special education student subsets get hands-on experience in their education, they can link to their future and they are more likely to succeed.

"Research shows that disadvantaged kids, kids that are not buying into school, the kids that are struggling, they are not engaged," Potter said. "They are not connected. That research shows those kids that can connect real work to their education succeed."

The program is not just about giving a high school kid a part-time job, which Potter said can sometimes lead students to quit school altogether. The district developed the World of Work program, which gives students life skills.

"It’s a combination of New York state’s career development and occupational studies standards, along with the 10 most desirable workforce readiness skills that are recognized nationally and it’s in a 20-week course all our students take, including Bridge students."

The Workforce education program has already been successful at the Berkshire-Union campus with several companies, but the program needs new business partners in Hudson. Last year 142 out-of-district students and on-campus students took part, Potter said, and 97 of them maintained successful employment in their internship for three consecutive months while passing classes and not participating in any critical incidents.

The other major announcement was that Berkshire Union was looking to move the program into a larger facility on lower Warren Street that most recently housed the COARC offices. Potter said he and Hudson City School District Superintendent Maria Suttmeier had met with 1st Ward Alderman Nick Haddad and Hudson Common Council President Don Moore about leasing the vacant facility.

"We received their endorsement and they support the program," Potter said. "It will be completely renovated into an 11,000 square-foot school."

No lease had been signed yet with the Galvan Foundation, owners of the building, and the plans were still being developed, Potter said, but he said he hoped to be moved into the new facility by next September.

Potter said the new facility would allow more students from other districts to take part in Bridge program offerings, but said he was unsure how many more students the program would have next year.

"We’re going to have a slow growth, but what it will do right from the get-go is expand beyond Hudson and Catskill."

Suttmeier said she has been very happy with the success rate of students in the program over the past year, and said the added component of having an employment internship program gives students another way to succeed even if they do not choose to immediately go to college after high school. The added options also help students get admitted to competitive Questar (BOCES) programs, she said.

"We want to make sure they have as many opportunities as possible," she said.

Suttmeier said the program would not be a rehash of the school’s Youth Employment Services (Y.E.S.) program.

"We’re looking to forge new partnerships, not necessarily in Hudson" she said.

Catskill Superintendent Kate Farrell said she was pleased that more students would be able to be part of the programs and that they would be getting more workplace educational opportunities.

"I’m a happy camper," she said.


Read article on Register Star's website here.

To reach reporter Arthur Cusano, call 518-828-1616, ext. 2499, or email

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