S.A.Y. It Proud: Five Reid students shine in service

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PITTSFIELD — After a bit of a hiatus, the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership's S.A.Y. It Proud Awards have returned, recently honoring five students who shine at Reid Middle School.

The Supporting and Acknowledging Youth campaign recognizes individual city students for their decisions to be involved in positive activities that contribute to their community and to their own development of a healthy lifestyle.

This month's recipients, all eighth-graders, include: Gianna Arace, Ellianna "Ellie" Christopher, Caitlyn Mayhew, Kileigh McGann and Benjamin "Ben" Vengalil.

Reid Principal Linda Whitacre welcomed a gathering of a couple of dozen family and staff members to a brief morning ceremony held on May 24 in the school's library. The five honorees were summoned there, unaware of the series of compliments that were about to be bestowed onto them by their activities advisers.

Richard Johnson, who has succeeded Christopher Broast in the role of Pittsfield Prevention Partnership coordinator, emceed his first awards ceremony, handing out certificates, gift cards and complimentary memberships to the Berkshire Family YMCA.

"It's really exciting," said Johnson. "I believe in the youth and the fact that everything they're doing here is to help send them up in life."

"The Pittsfield Prevention Partnership believes that our community values the good choice our teens make and how hard teens work," said Whitacre. "The nomination of these five students for the S.A.Y. It Proud Awards is a testament to how important their work is in our school and in our community."

The 60-member Reid Student Council, co-advised by Grade 7 English language arts teacher Debbie Guachione, and guidance counselor Kristen Shepardson, nominated their co-councilors Arace, Christopher and Vengalil for the award.

"Each student in their own unassuming way, are self-motivated, considerate towards others, and exemplify Reid's positive behavior support program to the fullest," Guachione said.

About the honorees

- Gianna Arace is considered "a tremendous asset" to the Reid Student Council. "From the very beginning, although shy in her demeanor and serious in nature, she has given 100 percent to all of our student council activities," her nominators wrote. "She is a special young lady, with a huge heart. She never looks to take the credit, and instead, looks for opportunities to promote others."

Arace has been particularly active with the student council's Civic Committee, which supports an annual boot and coat drive, Salvation Army bell ringing campaign, "Go Green" activities, an elementary school book drive and building fundraisers. Through the council's Organizing Committee, she's helped make sure events like Above the Influence Skate Nights, Middle School Bowling Nights and others help make Reid a positive, fun and welcoming place.

- Ellianna Christopher, according to her advisers, was initially "a little reluctant in her approach" to the student council and taking on a leadership role. "Soon after, Ellianna became a prominent member of our building climate committee," her nominators said. "Since that very first activity, three years ago, Ellianna is no long ago reluctant. ... She has taken the initiative to get the job done."

Christopher is credited for helping to organize and implement more than a dozen school-wide initiatives, from the annual Feather Sale to raise money for local charities to "Come See Reid Night" and this year's Breast Cancer Awareness Event.

"Other students look up to Ellianna for her determination and organization — and of course, her sense of humor. There isn't a member of our student council who couldn't work with Ellianna in any capacity," her nominators said.

- Ben Vengalil "has played an integral part" in making Reid Middle School students events successful, including Above the Influence Skate Nights, Thanksgiving Angels food pantry efforts, the Breast Cancer Awareness Event, Come See Reid Night and parent-teacher conferences.

Within the building, Ben has been a role model for his peers, always trying to do what's right, and helping younger student council members learn the ropes," his nominators said. "Ben is highly intelligent, focused, mature, kind, and friendly," and also has a knack for writing and reporting for the Reid Raptor News Team.

"No matter what the task, Ben has approached each with rigor and pride," his nominators said.

The second set of honorees were selected by members of Reid's Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.) chapter, with remarks presented by their co-advisers, Lynn Ashburn, a Grade 7 math teacher, and Amanda Soar, a Grade 6 English language arts teacher.

- Caitlyn Mayhew was nominated for "her dedicated work" for the S.A.D.D. chapter and for her "participation in classroom initiatives." This includes leading the group's Thanksgiving Food Drive; the Sticker Shock campaign to educate the community about underage drinking issues; and Reid's "Locker Positive Post-Its" campaign during which hundreds of encouraging notes are handwritten and carefully placed onto students' lockers overnight so they can find a pleasant surprise the next morning.

"She is an outstanding student and is well-respected by her diverse group of peers," her nominators said.

- Kileigh McGann was also acknowledged for her "dedicated and passionate work" with S.A.D.D. In addition to the above three initiatives, she was also cited for being a leader in helping to organize the school's Box Tops for Education drive and Bingo game events at neighboring Mount Greylock Extended Care.

"To say that Kileigh is a natural leader would be an understatement of her natural ability to lead others," her nominators said. "Her incredibly positive attitude and warm and genuine smile, makes everyone around her want to follow her lead."

In meeting the students, Pittsfield Prevention Partnership Coordinator Richard Johnson said he couldn't be more impressed. "Every S.A.Y. It Proud recipient has wings, and you are flying," he said to the students. "You need to keep flying."


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