Press Releases from Our Members

Josh Billings RunAground September 16

PITTSFIELD – The 42nd annual Josh Billings Triathlon will take place on Sunday, September 16. The race starts in Great Barrington and ends at Tanglewood in Lenox, with a 27-mile bike ride, a 5-mile canoe, kayak, or paddleboard sprint, and a 6-mile run.

Josh Billings is the pen name of renowned humorist, Henry Wheeler Shaw, who was born in Lanesboro, Massachusetts on April 12, 1818. Billings’ saying, “To finish is to win,” is the motto of the RunAground and one of the reasons the event was named after him. “The Josh”, one of the oldest and largest bike-canoe-run triathlons in the country, is an event for all ages and abilities and proceeds from the event benefit Berkshire United Way. Over the past decade, the Josh Billings has contributed over $75,000 to the organization in support of their mission to build a stronger community here in the Berkshires.

“The Josh has always received tremendous support from the Berkshire community, so it was an easy decision to work with Berkshire United Way when I became race director 16 years ago, knowing that the money raised through the Josh would have the greatest impact on people who need support in our community,” said Patty Spector.

“Berkshire United Way is honored to receive proceeds from the Josh. In the spirit of teamwork and community, these funds are invested in more than 30 local agencies to strengthen the Berkshires,” commented Jenn Kerwood, vice president of development at Berkshire United Way.

The Josh Billings RunAground is calling on volunteers to help support its historic race taking place on September 16. In addition, teams and singles of all capabilities are encouraged to participate.

The Josh Kids Race, which is open to all children aged 5-12 regardless of whether their parents/guardians are participating in the Josh, will return again this year. Kids race participants can register ahead of time from 12-3 at the Arcadian Shop on Saturday, September 15 or from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on race day at Tanglewood; just look for the Berkshire United Way tent. All kids race participants must be registered for this free event.

To register or find more information on the Josh Billings RunAground, please visit

About Berkshire United Way

For more than 90 years, Berkshire United Way has been building a stronger community right here in Berkshire County. We support children and families wherever they are in their lives. We provide early education opportunities, so children enter school ready to learn; give young people the tools they need to make healthy decisions; and help working families become financially stable. As part of a worldwide effort to create lasting change, we mobilize people and organizations to develop long-term solutions to current and emerging needs throughout the county.

Our vision is for Berkshire County to become a dynamic, engaged community with opportunities for all.

Saint James Place Elects Leigh Davis to Board of Directors

Great Barrington, Mass.– August 14, 2018 – Saint James Place today announced that Leigh Davis, director of development at Mill Renaissance LLC and Eagle Mill Redevelopment LLC, has been elected to its Board of Directors.

“Leigh brings vitality and experience, combined with passion and a demonstrated commitment to the community of Great Barrington,” said Sally Harris, co-founder of Saint James Place. “For the past year and a half, 36 local organizations have used Saint James Place to fulfill their missions–everything from the arts to People’s Pantry–and with Leigh now onboard, we look forward to expanding our reach.”

“Sally and Fred inspire me.” said Davis. “Their selflessness, generosity, and love for community, coupled with their desire to maintain the integrity of Saint James’ history embody the spirit of the Berkshires. I am excited for this opportunity to work with them and with the other board members of Saint James.”

Before joining Mill Renaissance and Eagle Mill Redevelopment as director of development, Davis was marketing director of New England Newspapers, Inc. Prior to that, she was marketing manager of The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. She was also an elected member of the Great Barrington Finance Committee. A cinema and photography graduate of Ithaca College, Davis holds a Master of Arts from the National University of Ireland and was a tenured professor at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, also in Ireland. She resides in Great Barrington with her three children, all of whom who are students in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District.

The Board of Directors of Saint James Place comprises of: Peter Dillon Superintendent of Schools Berkshire Hills Regional School District / Shaker Mountain School Union; Kristin Marting, Executive Director, HERE and Founding Co-Director, PROTOTYPE; Keith N. Morgan, Professor Emeritus, Boston University; A. Robert Jaeger, President, Partners for Sacred Places; Sally Harris, President and co-founder of Saint James Place, Inc.; Fred Harris, co-founder of Saint James Place.

About Saint James Place

Saint James Place, Inc. was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 2010 by Sally and Fred Harris for the purchase and historic preservation of St. James Church & Parish House in Great Barrington. Its mission is to provide a vibrant, year-round creative hub and quality performance venue for nonprofits and for the community. The fully restored, state-of the-art space includes a commercial-grade kitchen, performer dressing rooms, offices, and three unique rental spaces: The Sanctuary, which seats up to 300 people; The Great Hall, which seats 134; and The East Room, which accommodates 88 people. For more information see

MCLA, BCC, Pittsfield Public Schools Part of $1.5M Program to Increase Diversity Among Math & Science Teachers

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), along with Berkshire Community College (BCC) and Pittsfield Public Schools, will comprise one of three regional partnership teams that will participate in a pilot phase to develop MassTeach, a new model that aims to increase and diversify the ranks of educators prepared to teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in high-need school districts. The program is the result of a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE).

The five-year grant, awarded through NSF’s Robert Noyce Scholarship Track, is the first of its kind to be presented to a state higher education system. It will be used to simultaneously address two critical issues: the overall shortage of trained and licensed STEM instructors and the lack of under-represented minorities that teach in the Commonwealth’s K-12 classrooms.

MCLA President James F. Birge, Ph.D., hailed the new initiative, which he said will build upon the College’s work to promote STEM education and support students of color. This includes the College’s “Strengthening Institutions Program,” funded by nearly $2.2 million from the United States Department of Education. As a result of multiple initiatives, MCLA is closing the gap in four-year graduation rates between students of color and the general cohort.

“We are delighted to continue this important work as we participate in the development of MassTeach, which will complement our efforts to eliminate achievement gaps between students,” Birge said. “It is particularly important as MCLA works with Berkshire Community College and Pittsfield Public Schools to meet the need for educators to teach math and science to the next generation of innovators, who will fill the STEM Pipeline in Berkshire County, the Commonwealth, and beyond.”

MCLA Education Department Chair Nick Stroud, Ph.D., said the Education Department is thrilled to work on the MassTeach project with the College’s colleagues at BCC and across the Commonwealth.

“This project will not only enhance our ability to attract and retain high quality teacher candidates in the high demand fields of STEM education, it will also create and sustain a more diverse cadre of STEM teachers in Berkshire County. This project has the potential to be a model for other partnerships across the Commonwealth and the nation, and MCLA is excited to be one of the lead institutions.”

The new program, intended to be both sustainable and scalable, will utilize “A2B” (Associate to Bachelor’s) degree pathways that are part of the statewide MassTransfer system. MassTransfer allows students to begin their undergraduate education at one of the state’s community colleges and then transfer to any state university at a substantial cost savings and without a loss of credit.

MassTeach Scholars will receive $20,000 scholarships, as well as academic advising to keep them on track to transfer, graduate with a STEM degree and obtain a STEM teaching license. By drawing from the highly diverse community college population, MassTeach will cultivate a culturally rich pool of potential educators who are often the first in their family to attend college and likely to reside in economically disadvantaged urban districts where the need for qualified and diversified STEM instructors is most acute.

Ninety percent of Massachusetts teachers are white, compared with an overall student population that is 60 percent white. A wide body of research indicates that students often perform better academically when they are taught by teachers they can identify with. One of the unique aspects of MassTeach is that it will place new teachers in urban communities where they grew up and attended school, allowing grant evaluators to gauge whether educators’ local roots serve as a catalyst for their retention in the classroom.

In addition to the work MCLA does through its “Strengthening Institutions Program,” 32 of the College’s students who major in biology, physics, chemistry, environmental studies, computer science and mathematics benefit from a nearly $640,000 National Science Foundation Scholarship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S-STEM) grant that provides them with annual scholarships through the “STEM Pathways Program.”

This program directly addresses an area of national concern – the shortage of graduates in this country who are trained in STEM-related fields – as it allows academically strong STEM students who may not otherwise be able to afford college to prepare to help Massachusetts companies continue to advance knowledge that produces life-changing innovations.

MCLA also collaborates with North Adams Public Schools and Williams College to improve undergraduate science education with funding from a nearly $811,000 grant from NSF. The four-year project, “Teaching to Learn: Improving Undergraduate Science Education Through Engagement in K-7 Science,” for which Stroud serves as the principal investigator, provides opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in experiences developing and teaching science lessons in North Adams elementary school classrooms.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth’s public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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