The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Probation, and Pittsfield Public Schools are piloting a new program providing additional social-emotional learning to families in the city’s two community schools.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office won a $25,000 grant from Mass Probation to implement an early intervention program at the two schools. The Office is collaborating with Brooke Bridges, founder of Building Bridges SEL, who will empower children to develop a growth mindset and manage challenges in their lives.

District Attorney Andrea Harrington said.

Our county’s youth are not immune to the stress and anxiety that we all feel. We want them to live healthier and happier lives and this program provides them and their families the skills to understand their emotions, reactions, and then make positive decisions when faced with challenges, I thank the Department of Probation for partnering with us on this very meaningful endeavor and the Pittsfield Public Schools for their collaboration in designing a program to further our shared goal of
empowering children to live healthier and safer lives.

Brooke Bridges is a former actress now working as a mental health speaker and advocate. She developed a curriculum using evidence-based social and emotional learning tools, family support services, storytelling, and mentoring through in-school and afterschool sessions. She helps students learn how to process distressing events in their lives.

She holds virtual sessions with the students during the school weeks and will hold small, in-person gatherings with families if safely possible per the state and School Department is re-opening guidance.

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The sessions are all virtual to start but the program’s partners developed the flexibility to adapt to reopening procedures and provide in-person support if possible.

School officials offered the program to families with students in second through fifth grade at Conte Community School and Morningside Community School. The program began at the end of August and Brooke Bridges will work with 24 families. The program includes parental engagement and support to strengthen the student’s progress.

Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason McCandless said.

It is difficult to educate students when they are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unable to control their emotions and behavior. The Pittsfield Public Schools always prioritizes fostering resiliency in our students at young ages and partnering on a program like this to bring additional help to families reflects that commitment,
“We talk about the importance of social and emotional learning every day and are thankful for District Attorney Harrington and the Department of Probation for listening and developing this opportunity to instill positive coping skills that will serve them in several ways as they progress through their educational journey.

The program is a piece to the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office Juvenile Justice Initiative, which aims to build community support systems to help students grow and thrive. The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office intends for this program to foster positive behaviors at a young age so that ultimately, they never have to engage with the court system.

Shortly after launching the initiative, District Attorney Harrington engaged with school officials who expressed priority in social-emotional learning. Probation alerted the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office to the grant opportunity.

Building Bridges SEL Founder Brooke Bridges, District Attorney Andrea Harrington, Conte Community School Principal Kerry Light, Morningside Community School Principal Monica Zanin, Probation Deputy Commissioner of Pre-trial Services Pamerson Ifill, and Superintendent Jason McCandless announced the program at Conte Community School on Wednesday, September 23.

Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington’s office serves all 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County. The office represents the Commonwealth in more than 7,500 criminal cases per year in Berkshire Superior Court, three district courts, three juvenile courts, Massachusetts Appeals Court, and Supreme Judicial Court.

The office works closely with the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Berkshire
District Attorney’s Office, the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force, and collaborates with local police departments across the county. A dedicated staff of more than 50 prioritizes public safety, empowering victims and witnesses through services and support, and building a safe community for everyone and especially the most vulnerable.