Saturday, June 15, 2024

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Bennington College prison accreditation; MOLARI new staff and promotion; Milne Public Library new director; Morris Elementary’s Principal nominated; BCC students win national awards; BNRC protects farm; ViM Berkshires awarded major grant from Greylock; Berkshire HorseWorks receives grant

“I really want to contribute something intellectually, spiritually, morally, back to my community. It’s life changing. There’s nothing more productive in here for a man than that college education.”

Bennington College prison education initiative accredited to add a bachelor’s degree

Bennington— Bennington College’s Prison Education Initiative (PEI), which serves Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security men’s prison, is poised to offer incarcerated people the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“This means that we are a step closer to fulfilling the promise we made to offer ongoing education to any student who wishes it, in particular to students who are serving very long sentences,” said Annabel Davis-Goff, the program’s co-founder and a member of its faculty. “We don’t think of the BA as the culmination of students’ education. It’s just the next step.”

The College has been offering an associate’s degree at Great Meadow since 2015. The New York State Department of Corrections is expected to approve the expansion of the PEI in time for students to enroll this fall.

Bennington College’s Prison Education Initiative graduation. Image courtesy of Bennington College.

“What better way to improve yourself than higher education,” said Terrance C., a recent graduate of the associate’s degree program intending to continue towards a bachelor’s degree. “I really want to contribute something intellectually, spiritually, morally, back to my community. It’s life changing. There’s nothing more productive in here for a man than that college education.”

In order to be eligible to apply, students must have a PEI associate’s degree, an associate’s degree from another accredited institution, or sixty credits toward a degree. They must then write an essay describing their individualized educational plan, known at Bennington College as the Plan Essay. “The process for students studying at Bennington College in Bennington, VT, and those studying at Great Meadow is identical,” said Davis-Goff. “All Bennington College students are required to have a Plan Essay accepted by their Plan Committee at the end of their fourth term.” The classes offered at Great Meadow—including everything from Aesthetics to Epidemiology—are also identical in scope and rigor to those offered at the College’s Vermont campus.

Davis-Goff expects eight students in the inaugural class of bachelor’s degree students at Great Meadow. The Bennington College PEI is planning to extend the program yet again to offer a masters of fine arts in literature and writing as early as 2025.


MOLARI HealthCare Services welcomes new coordinator and promotes supervisor

Pittsfield— MOLARI HealthCare Services is thrilled to announce the addition of Ariana Lysonski-Phillip, as a HealthCare Coordinator, and the promotion of Isabella French to the position of HealthCare Supervisor.

Ariana Lysonski-Phillips joins MOLARI with a compassionate and caring nature and a passion for improving the lives of others. She prioritizes the needs of others and fosters strong relationships which makes her invaluable to the growing team. In her role as HealthCare Coordinator, Lysonski-Phillips will facilitate connections between caregivers and clients to better serve the home healthcare needs of the Berkshire County community.

Isabella French has been promoted to the position of HealthCare Supervisor. French’s deep understanding of clients’ needs has consistently made her an integral member of the MOLARI team. In her new role, she will work closely with MOLARI’s caregivers and clients in Central Berkshire County, ensuring that each client receives personalized care tailored to their unique needs. French’s promotion is a testament to her hard work, leadership skills, and commitment to providing the best home healthcare.

Ariana Lysonski-Phillip, HealthCare Coordinator, and Isabella French, HealthCare Supervisor.

“We are delighted to welcome Ariana Lysonski-Phillips to our team and congratulate Isabella French on her well-deserved promotion,” said Lee Rudin, Director of HealthCare of MOLARI Employment & HealthCare Services. “Their combined expertise and dedication to providing exceptional care will undoubtedly strengthen our ability to serve our community and make a positive impact on the lives of those we serve.


Milne Public Library trustees announce new library director Angela Zimmermann

Williamstown— The Milne Public trustees are pleased to announce the hiring of Angela Zimmermann as the new library director. Zimmermann comes to the library from Wisconsin with over eight years of management experience in library services, most recently as the Executive Director of the Racine Public Library.

As a library director, Angela has overseen significant renovation projects, implemented a library of things, launched a makerspace area, and chaired a committee that planned a 125th anniversary celebration. Micah Manary, Chair of the Milne Public Library Trustees shared, “We are all excited to begin the next phase in the life of the Milne public library. Angela brings innovation and energy that will genuinely transform how the library engages with our community.”

Library director Angela Zimmermann.

A world traveler with language skills in German, Spanish, and French, Zimmermann’s experience of visiting over 115 libraries in 2023 highlighted for her the importance of libraries being welcoming community places. She is committed to supporting library staff to make the library a warm, friendly, and welcoming place where people can access unbiased information. She uses the German word, Gemütlichkeit, which captures the idea of “warm cordiality, agreeableness, comfortable friendliness, or congeniality,” to describe how the library should feel to patrons.


Morris Elementary’s Principal Brenda Kelley nominated for 2024 National Distinguished Principal Program

Lenox— Superintendent William Collins is pleased to share that Morris Elementary School Principal Brenda Kelley has been nominated as a candidate for the National Distinguished Principal Program.

The National Distinguished Principal® (NDP) program, established by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP,) honors outstanding elementary and middle-level principals who ensure that America’s children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement. Each year, NAESP congratulates principals from across the nation, in both public and private schools, and overseas, for their exemplary achievements.

The final selection for the 2024 National Distinguished Principal will be made by a committee from the NAESP later this year, based on the following criteria:

  • Shows a strong commitment to the principalship through active membership in professional associations;
  • Is respected by students, colleagues, parents, and the community at large;
  • Assumes an active role in their community, distinguishing themselves as a leader in civic, religious, or humanitarian activities;
  • Shows strong educational leadership by setting high expectations for school staff and students;
  • Maintains an orderly, purposeful learning environment.
Principal Brenda Kelley. Image courtesy of Lenox Public Schools.

“I am grateful for the nomination for the National Distinguished Principal award,” Principal Kelley said. “This is a true testament to the collective effort of my dedicated staff, supportive community, and the limitless potential within our students.”

“The dedication to the students, families, and staff of the Morris School shine through in everything that Principal Kelley does,” shared Superintendent Collins. “I am thrilled that she is in the running for 2024 National Distinguished Principal. I hope that this nomination validates for Principal Kelley how much the school community, as well as her colleagues, appreciate her!”


Two Berkshire Community College students receive national recognition 

Pittsfield— Berkshire Community College (BCC) students Mariangel Dus and William Garrity have received national recognition for academic excellence. Both are members of Phi Theta Kappa, a national honor society for associate degree–seeking students.

Mariangel Dus.

Mariangel Dus won a spot on the 2024 All-USA Academic Team. The team, sponsored by education technology provider Cengage in collaboration with Phi Theta Kappa, recognizes students for intellectual achievement, leadership, community and campus engagement. She is one of only 20 college students named to the prestigious team and was selected from more than 2,200 nominees. Dus will receive a $5,000 scholarship and will be recognized at the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky in April.

William Garrity.

Dus has also been named a 2024 New Century Transfer Scholar and will receive a $2,250 scholarship. New Century Transfer Scholars are selected based on their academic accomplishments, leadership, activities and how they extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom. More than 2,200 students from more than 1,300 college campuses nationwide were nominated, and only one New Century Transfer Scholar is selected from each state. The program is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Phi Theta Kappa and the American Association of Community Colleges.

William Garrity was selected as a Bronze Scholar on Coca-Cola’s 2024 Academic Team and will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

His selection was based on the score he earned in the All-USA Academic Team competition, for which more than 2,200 applications were received. The program is sponsored by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and is administered by Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.


Berkshire Natural Resources Council protects Clarksburg farm

Clarksburg— Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC), a nationally accredited land trust serving the Berkshire region, has partnered with a conservation-minded farm business owner, an experienced regional farmer, and financial contributors, to preserve Many Forks Farm in Clarksburg.

Mackenzie Greer, BNRC Director of Public Programs.

BNRC, which has long protected farmland across the Berkshires, is stepping up its agricultural preservation efforts to counter the recent loss of regional farmland to non-agricultural purposes. “A generation of farmers are aging out of their profession,” said Mackenzie Greer, Director of Public Programs at BNRC. “Younger farmers struggle to secure farmland at reasonable prices, as the cost of Massachusetts farmland is rising as quickly as any in the country.”

Many Forks Farm, previously owned and operated by Sharon Wyrrick using a community supported agriculture farm share model, generously sold the farm to BNRC at a bargain price for conservation purposes.

Molly Comstock of Colfax Farm has signed a lease to be the Many Forks succeeding farmer—and Molly will take ownership of the farm at an affordable, preservation-reduced price of entry within a few years. As part of the conveyance to Molly, BNRC will place the entire farm into legal conservation status, so that Many Forks Farm will continue in perpetuity as a working farm in its local community and region.

Jenny Hansell, BNRC President.

“I’m grateful for Sharon’s stewardship and generosity, for Molly’s resolve and vision, and for all the donors who make agriculture in the Berkshires possible,” said Jenny Hansell, BNRC president. “BNRC is proud to play a unique role among an impressive and inspiring cast of farm-forward organizations that are working in the Berkshires to protect and promote the farming traditions of this special, beautiful region of the world.”

Donors to the BNRC Berkshire Farms Fund make this kind of local farm protection possible.   Learn more about donating to BNRC’s Berkshire Farms Fund at or contact Rich Montone, BNRC director of development, at


ViM Berkshires awarded major grant from Greylock to expand healthcare access

Great Barrington— Volunteers in Medicine (ViM) Berkshires, a free healthcare center serving uninsured residents of Berkshire County, has been awarded a 2-year grant from Greylock Federal, the region’s leading credit union, to increase healthcare access to the uninsured. The two-year, $75,000 grant to support ViM’s CareWorks Campaign will be used to launch a new ViM healthcare center in Pittsfield and expand the ViM center in Great Barrington. 

Ilana Steinhauer, executive director, ViM Berkshires

“Greylock Federal continues to demonstrate their commitment to the region and to the immigrant communities we serve,” said Ilana Steinhauer, executive director, ViM Berkshires. “We are extremely honored to have received this award and thrilled to partner with them to continue working towards building a healthier community where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive.”

Almost 4% of Berkshire County adults are uninsured. In 2023, ViM cared for more than 1700 patients in more than 7,000 visits – a 15% growth from the previous year. Most of these patients were immigrants, the fastest growing community in the Berkshire region. ViM cares for the uninsured by mobilizing more than 170 volunteers who donate 10,000 hours of their time, supported by a small paid staff. ViM avoids 92% of the expected hospital visits for their patient population. 


10th Anniversary has Berkshire HorseWorks “Going Mobile” With grant from Feigenbaum

Richmond— Berkshire HorseWorks, Inc. (BHW) has secured a $7,500 grant from the Feigenbaum Foundation to purchase a new trailer for the “BHW Goes Mobile” initiative. The trailer will allow BHW to expand capacity by going offsite and transporting the therapy herd to schools, residential treatment centers, assisted-living facilities, community events, and other “home-bound” populations who would benefit from this modality, but cannot access it because of financial or physical restraints.

Hayley Sumner, founder, and executive director.

“BHW’s goal has always been to be inclusive and offer the best and most relevant Equine Assisted programs to as many people in the community as possible. We are incredibly appreciative of the Feigenbaum Foundation’s support, without which we could not deliver critical programming to those who need it most,” said Hayley Sumner, founder, and executive director. 

Celebrating its 10th Year Anniversary, BHW has served over 3000 at-risk youth, active duty, veterans, families, and those from other vulnerable populations in the Berkshires and throughout New England. 

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