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BCC Garners $16K Grant for Berkshire Immigrant Stories Project

October 17, 2016

Berkshire Community College (BCC) today announced that the institution has garnered a $16K grant from Mass Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a pilot project, Berkshire Immigrant Stories, which will pave the way for a Public Humanities Center at BCC. BCC is one of only three colleges in the Commonwealth chosen to pilot this groundbreaking new initiative.

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The Berkshire Immigrant Stories Project

The Berkshire Immigrant Stories Project will collect and share the stories of recent local immigrants and their children and grandchildren through an online exhibit and archive called “Your Story, Our Story,” developed by the Tenement Museum of New York.

BCC President Ellen Kennedy said, “We are proud and excited to be a part of this groundbreaking project. As a higher education institution, it’s important to acknowledge and understand the world around us. The stories of immigrants in Berkshire County is important to our history, but also to our future and fostering a global community – right in our backyard.”

“In Massachusetts, as elsewhere, community colleges are under increasing pressure to focus more and more on vocational and technical training at the expense of the humanities and liberal arts, even though this is the only higher education the majority of community college students will receive,” stated Dave Tebaldi, director of Mass Humanities. “This initiative represents a modest counterbalance to this trend, affirming the importance and value of the humanities not only for students but for the community at large.”

In early 2017, BCC and partners including the Berkshire Athenaeum and BCC’s Jonathan Edwards Library, will offer hands-on help with photographing objects, writing stories and submitting them to the “Your Story, Our Story” online archive. The workshops, which are free and open to the public, will be held at the Athenaeum at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 and March 2, and at BCC’s Jonathan Edwards Library on April 6 at 12:15 p.m.

Additionally, in spring 2017, BCC will host literary events around the theme of immigration, including a presentation by author Martin Espada at noon on April 21, as well as a series of activities and presentations by author Jana Laiz between April 20 and 27.

Other BCC partners include: The BCC Writing Center, The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area and The Working Cities Initiative.

Public Humanities Center at BCC

Mass Humanities hopes to create Community College Public Humanities Centers at one or more community colleges in each of the six regions across the state – the Berkshires, the Connecticut River Valley, Central Mass., Great Boston, the Northeast, and the South Coast, according to Tebaldi. The initiative aims to transform the cultural and civic landscape of the Commonwealth and to serve as a model for other states.

The NEH planning grant, totaling approximately $75K, enables Mass Humanities to test the concept of humanities centers at BCC, Holyoke Community College and Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Mass.

The mission of the Public Humanities Center at BCC will be to engage the community through initiatives and programs in the culture and history of Berkshire County, with a special emphasis on the county’s underserved populations. The Berkshires Immigrant Stories Project is the first step toward that goal.

The Center would also serve as a place for area residents to gather on a regular basis with humanists, artists, social scientists and policymakers bringing multiple perspective to bear on pressing local issues. 

Following the 2016-2017 planning grant, Mass Humanities will submit an implementation grant to the NEH that will provide multi-year funding the BCC Center as well as the two other institutions.

More details about BCC’s Berkshire Immigrant Stories Project, including additional information about the Tenement Museum’s online exhibit and upcoming BCC events click here.