Higher Education: Senator Kerry visits with Berkshire Compact


By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff

NORTH ADAMS - In two years since its formation, the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education has taken its initiative from page to process to product.

About 40 members from the educational, economic and municipal sectors of the county attended the collaborative's meeting on Friday for an update on the Compact's progress.

They were joined by state officials and U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., who nominated the initiative for a New England Board of Higher Education's Excellence Award last year.

Kerry lauded the collaborative effort, calling it "beyond impressive."

"It is the essential ingredient of pulling any community together," he said.

The Compact is based on 20-page prospectus of ambitious goals to raise students' aspirations; to create a strong, state-of-the-art technology base in local schools; to ensure that all citizens have access to an affordable higher education; and to expand the local work force with highly trained employees.

"But the colleges cannot do this alone," said Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary Grant, noting that funding continues to be a key issue in sustaining Compact programs. Grant is the leader of the Compact.

Grant and others reported that, so far, many programs and networks have been created to encourage the county's youth.

Examples include the MCLA-sponsored middle and high school science fairs; Positive Options, a collaborative alternative education effort; the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative; and a variety of internship programs.

Grant said that the Compact is also working on designing and implementing a "Berkshire County Goes to College" day and a resource Web site and resource center to help support those interested in furthering their education.