Don Ross, a Pittsfield native, is Berkshire Community College’s current Student Government Association President — where he works tirelessly to try to engage his peers in making the College a more service-oriented environment that inspires the student body to be more engaged civically.
He was also held back a year and eventually dropped out of high school after dealing with a personal trauma early on in life.
Don is an easy-going and conscientious go-getter who is pursuing his degree in Engineering. He recognizes the parts of himself he needs to work on and knows how to persevere in the face of adversity.
After attending Pittsfield High for two years — Don transferred to Taconic High School.
“I’ve always been really interested in electronics — and at PHS I was taking their digital electronics program” Don said. “However, this class was canceled at PHS, and that’s the main reason why I ended up at Taconic to join the AOIT program.”
While at Taconic however, he found himself struggling to make it to classes. He had lost his grandparents — and was repeating the same grade he took last year. As he continued to struggle with this personal trauma — he found himself missing hundreds of classes, and he eventually had to drop out of high school.
Luckily, there was the Pittsfield Adult Learning Center (PALC) — a part of the Pittsfield Public Schools. Don enrolled in the adult diploma program through the PALC and managed to finish in eight weeks. He also managed to graduate on time with his peers who he initially started school with. Don still tutors students at the Adult Learning Center to this day.
“And my diploma doesn’t say I graduated from the Adult Learning Center,” Don adds as an observation. “When you look at my diploma, it just says that I’ve graduated from Pittsfield Public Schools, just like all of my friends’ diplomas.”
While a student at the Adult Learning Center — Don says he was inspired by a presentation done by Connie West, the Coordinator of the STEM Starter Academy that eventually got him to enroll at BCC.
“However,” He adds, “I always knew I’d end up at BCC — I know Jan Harris, an electronics and math teacher, really well — I grew up with her son Kevyn — and she helped guide me on which classes to take at BCC because she knew I was really interested in engineering.”
After joining the STEM Starter Academy over the summer, and then joining the campus that following Fall, he says that he knew BCC was going to be the right choice for him “It was the affordable option and plus, I’ve actually heard a lot of positive things about BCC.”
As a student at BCC, Don was excited to continue to explore the fields of engineering and mathematics. He meets three times a week with electronics and mathematics adjunct professor Jan Harris to check in and talk through any issues he’s having. He also meets once a week with Professor Robert Mossman, an electrical engineering adjunct professor, to talk about classes and engineering. “Currently, I’m really struggling with Calculus II” Don says, adding, “I stay after class a lot and talk with the professor constantly — I’m not the only one having a hard time, but it is something I’m trying to overcome.”
Don encourages all of the students on campus to take time to get to know their faculty — stay behind after class and ask questions, and get engaged with your peers. “Having a support group of people to study with and engage with — and connecting to campus activities with them, is very helpful mentally and academically.”
Don is extremely self-aware and willing to take on the parts of himself that he sees as opportunities for further development. He says if you told him only two years ago that he was going to be the head of the Student Government Association, he’d have laughed.
I was really introverted — and still am when I get home. But at College, I’m really trying to push myself to be the type of engineering student who is comfortable talking to people and making connections. I think it’ll give me an advantage in this field.
Don fully expects to stray further away from engineering research and move into engineering management positions as he begins to develop his career path. He attributes his newly found leadership and communicative strengths to be some of the assets he’s gained through this community college experience.
“I’m really starting to enjoy just talking to people,” Don said, near the conclusion of nearly three hours of being interviewed.
Don thinks that his drive to better himself has paid off too, adding “When I look at how I’ve developed over the last two years, I’ve noticed a lot of positive personality changes within myself. I’m now a peer mentor and am proud of the confidence that I’ve gained from being involved on campus.”
On where he sees himself going after graduation, Don takes a very analytical approach to his next few years. He recognizes that a lot of the courses he’s taking in science, technology, engineering and math offering similar learning outcomes regardless of your school choice.
“It’s one of the big things I’ve been trying to be constantly aware of — I’ve been looking at Northeastern — but then I realized I’m going to school for something that’s pretty objective, and I’d essentially be paying a premium for their marketing,” Don Says. “I’m actually looking at getting my four-year degree at UMASS. I know it’ll be affordable, my Calculus book here is the same one they use there, and a lot more credits will transfer.”
He’s analytical with a drive to be assertive, outgoing, and outspoken. His strengths in the field of Mathematics are coupled with a deep sense of self-awareness, which makes him stand out from the crowd. Don serves as an inspiration to many as he challenges himself to be a better student, a better engineer, a better mentor, and a better person that many people can look up to.