Northern Berkshire Youth Outreach Program Teaches Life Skills

Latter-day teenagers need an education that goes beyond the curriculum covered in High School. That’s the idea behind a series of life skills workshops launching this week.

Financial skills, nutrition advice, how to find healthy activities on a limited budget—these are topics even some adults could use some help with.  But teenagers lacking knowledge in these areas may feel they have nowhere to go. That’s according to Kate Merrigan, coordinator for UNITY, a youth outreach program run by a non-profit in North Adams, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.

When it comes to gaps in these basic life skills, her organization hears common themes from the teens it works with.

“They wish they had learned those things earlier. If they’re not getting them from their families, they’re probably not getting them anywhere. I think people used to get these things more at home, maybe from faith institutions if they were involved. But less young people are involved in faith organizations and a lot of k families are just struggling with other things so much that I think these are things they’re not involved with at home.”

So UNITY, working with Drury High School in North Adams and Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, is launching a series of workshops for teens this week. For one hour a month through May, the workshops will offer practical advice on things like conflict resolution, healthy relationships, and even tips on how to manage the social fallout after a breakup. 

To address conflict resolution, Barrington Stage’s education department will build on past experiences of its playwright mentoring program, says Frank La Frazia

“Let’s say a particular student comes in and talks about something that upset them at school that day. So what we might do is we’ll get the students to actually get on their feet and actually act out, in a safe way, that problem.”

Merrigan says the free workshops, each expected to draw fifteen to twenty teens from northern Berkshire County, are not intended as a permanent solution to solving problems, but a way to at least offer some practical help in a quick and accessible way.