Last fall, recent graduate Jamal Ahamad '11 traded his home in Brooklyn, N. Y., for life in the Berkshires. In addition to teaching dance at the Berkshire Dance Theatre in Adams, he is the 21st century/Massachusetts grad site coordinator at Pittfield's Taconic High School.
A former MCLA Dance Company member, Ahamad, who majored in English/communications with a minor in arts management, continues to fulfill his love of dance by teaching as many as nine dance classes during the evening each week to children aged 6 through 15.
At Taconic High Schook, Ahamad initially was hired as a substitute teacher for students in the special education program.
"They put me in all the hardest areas because all the kids liked me. I would just hang out with them.
"Then the 21st century position opened up, and they told me I should consider applying. Because I am young, they knew I could get close to the kids in a way that other teachers couldn't," Ahamad explained.
At the high school, "We take kids and we put them in online classes or we give them alternative means to earn their credits. Some of our students don't do well in a classroom, so we put them over in Berkshire Works, where they can be in a smaller environment," Ahamad said.
Other options include a community college experience, where students can learn what college is all about while they earn both high school and college credits.
Ahamad loves that he is utilizing skills he learned at MCLA.
"I am using many of the things I did in my arts management classes," he said. "I was afraid I would never be able to put what I learned to use because, in New York, everything is so competitive. I was afraid I wouldn't get the job that I wanted."
At MCLA, he took a course in grant writing. That knowledge has proven valuable on the job because Ahamad's position is funded by two separate grants.
"And for me to be good at my job and to understand what it is that they want me to achieve, I have to understand the grants. Because I took that grant writing class, I knew what I was looking at," he said.
"There are definitely a lot of communications. I write a lot of letters. Soon, I will write grants," Ahamad said. "There's a whole lot of data management and just working with a lot of different types of people."
He added, "I'm not just sitting at a desk all day. I'm actually getting stuff done. I love that I feel useful. It's awesome because I feel needed."
Ahamad credits his MCLA experience for the person he is today.
"I grew up there. MCLA was everything to me. People nurtured me. It really helped me become who I am. Some people don't take advantage of that, but you get out of it what you put in to it."
He also loves the Berkshires.
"I can see the stars at night and I can go out and walk whenever I want. This is different than New York. I plan on staying here for an extended period."