As previously noted, we recently spoke with Berkshire County District Attorney, Andrea Harrington. In the interview she covered an array of topics and issues facing the Berkshires. One of the topics we covered was a pilot program - 'Service Emotional Learning for Elementary Students.' This program is part of Harrington's office's Juvenile Justice Initiative.

Harrington described the initiative along with the pilot program

Our goal is to keep kids out of the justice system but more importantly to give young people the tools that they need to thrive and be successful here in our community. Early on in my term, we visited Conte school and we spoke with the principal and met with the PTO

Harrington and her team asked the following question while visiting the Conte School in Pittsfield:

If you could have anything what would you like? 

The answer from the school was service emotional learning for their students.

Harrington continued on with the following information:

Their answer really resonated with me because when I was on the school committee with Monica Zanon, this was talked about all the time. Monica Zanon is now the principal at Morningside. So, we worked with Morningside and Conte to develop a pilot program to help elementary school students with learning social emotional skills. These are second through fifth graders. We started with 12 students in each school and it's a family program. Parents are engaged and involved and the parents were very excited about this program.

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Through the service emotional program, Harrington, her team and the schools found some interesting results. Here's what Harrington had to say about the results.

The interesting thing that we and the schools found (because we planned this before the pandemic and we intended for it to be in person but once the pandemic hit, it went online and became virtual. We were working with Brooke Bridges who has expertise in this area) was that the students that were participating in this program had better attendance. They had better engagement with their classes. They felt that the students had better self control across the board in all of their classes. So, we really feel like that this has been a huge success.

Harrington would like to see this program available in other schools. Here are Harrington's comments.

We extended this pilot program with funding from Berkshire Community Action Council. Now that the municipalities and then hopefully the state are going to be getting these covid relief funds, it's my hope that this program can serve as a pilot for other schools if they have funding to implement this kind of program because with students having been virtual for this past year it's creating stress from the pandemic. If we needed this program before we need it now more than ever. We're very excited about this program and how well it went.

You can contact the Berkshire District Attorney's Office by going here.

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