Pittsfield Listens is developing parent and youth leaders—especially those who have been most marginalized historically—and redesigning the way the schools and community work together to shape the future of Pittsfield.
Student Impact Story
When Daniel* joined Pittsfield Listens in 2013, they brought a passion for the arts and debate, with an incredible skill in music and writing. A sophomore at Pittsfield Middle High School and one of 7 siblings in a single parent home, Daniel brought many gifts that had yet to have a space to be realized. Together with a group of students, Daniel worked with Pittsfield Listens in forming the Youth Organizing and Action Committee (now called Pittsfield Youth Voice). They took on a leadership role in the first semester and have helped the group to grow ever since. Daniel grew from having timid confidence in a small group of peers to gaining skills and facilitating youth meeting, as well as meetings with youth and adults-including people they had never met. When Pittsfield Listens’ Meet the Candidates Night saw an additional 20 more participants than we planned for, Daniel stepped up to facilitate a small group discussion. At the close of the night, candidates and participants alike were noting Daniel’s strong facilitation skills. Daniel has been instrumental in the work of Pittsfield Youth Voice and supporting youth voice on issues and policies that directly impact young people in the Pittsfield community and its schools. Daniel graduated in 2016 and is currently pursuing a gap year to gain more experience as a professional community organizer. They are exploring 4-year universities to apply to that have programs that support their passion for social justice, the arts, and civic engagement/community organizing. In addition, Daniel applied for and was accepted as a facilitator for the Youth Leadership Institute.
*Students name changed to respect their privacy. Daniel prefers the gender pronouns they and theirs.
Parent Impact Story: As part of Pittsfield Listens’ work with youth, we have seen young people we work with bring their parents and family members-who were previously unengaged-to meetings and events. One parent of a student involved with Pittsfield Youth Voice attended our Meet the Candidates Night and subsequently voted for the first time in a local election, sharing that her son and his friend’s reflections and priorities helped influence her vote. This led to the parent’s more sustained engagement, joining the Pittsfield Listens Family and Community Engagement Committee and participating in School Board meetings and forums.
Parent Impact Story 2: As the parent of two daughters with disabilities, Jennifer Cole recognized early on that all students do not fit into the same box when it comes to learning. With three daughters who have different needs and learning styles, and introducing them to student-centered learning throughout their education, Jen felt strongly that all students should have an individualized plan to help them be successful. Jen has been involved with Pittsfield Youth Workshop (PYW) for the last 10 years. Seven years ago, she joined the program’s Board of Directors to give back to the organization for providing wonderful and needed programing to her three daughters and other youth in her community. For Jen, the connection between community engagement and student-centered learning was further realized in 2011, when the PYW joined with NH Listens to found Pittsfield Listens. She joined in the planning sessions, facilitator trainings, focus groups, and a series of community conversations “Pittsfield Listens: Strong Schools Strong Community. How can all of us make Pittsfield a great place for everyone to learn and live?.” This process inspired Jen to continue her involvement in the community through Pittsfield Listens. Professionally, Jen works in early childhood education, where learning is largely student-centered. Drawing on her skills and inspiration for organizing as fostered with Pittsfield Listens, she became an organizer with the NH Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy. Jen joined as a member of the Nellie Mae Speakers Bureau, and as part is eager to see student-centered approaches utilized beyond early childhood education, and in elementary, middle and high school as well. As a parent leader with Pittsfield Listens advocating for student-centered learning, Jen hopes that the young children she teaches can be lifelong learners at every stage of their education.