The City of Pittsfield successfully submitted a comprehensive proposal, centering on an initiative known as the Life Academy for Young Women, designed for at-risk young women for the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2017 Mayor’s Challenge. Pittsfield’s submission on Friday, Oct, 20, the competition’s deadline, officially classifies the city as a competitor for the nationwide contest.
The academy seeks to create a holistic, residential experience for young women of all backgrounds ages 16-21, many of whom are homeless and subject to predatory influences. Through the academy, the young women will have access to an array of services, resources, and mentors to enhance their education, access to job opportunities, wellness, personal growth, and citizenship.
The challenge, which garnered the interest of more than 500 cities across the nation, is aimed at helping cities identify ideas to address critical issues through bold, innovative initiatives. Thirty five cities will be selected as a Champion City with a $100,000 prize and access to support from related experts. From the 35 Champion Cities, four cities with the best ideas will receive $1 million for concept development. One city will be selected to receive the top prize - $5 million.
The city’s proposal, which is available here under “Hot Topics” on the homepage of the city’s website, www.cityofpittsfield.org, culminates a three-month process that included the participation of Mayor Linda Tyer, internal staff of various expertise and City Council leadership. The brainstorming sessions were beneficial in identifying the most pressing issues for the city and used an affinity diagram to map out strategies to best tackle those needs.
Understanding those needs, especially that of our community’s vulnerable population, was crucial to the creation of the Life Academy, says Mayor Tyer, who recalled a conversation with noted community leader, Shirley Edgerton, who first proposed the idea for the Life Academy. The idea is an expansion of the Edgerton’s Rites of Passage and Empowerment Program, which seeks to enhance the lives of young women – academically, socially, and spiritually.
That conversation inspired Mayor Tyer to select this concept for the competition.
“Through this process several great ideas were conceived. My greatest desire was to select the idea that would reach those in our community who struggle to achieve their greatest potential. The Life Academy for Young Women is exactly right for the Mayors Challenge,” said Mayor Tyer. “We put forth a concept that we wouldn’t have the resources to develop on our own. Dedicated and intentional caring about the well-being of Pittsfield’s young women will transform their lives, the lives of their families, and their community.”
Edgerton, who was a part of the application’s development process, said that she was excited about the potential for the academy to be a reality in Pittsfield.
“My hope, vision, and desire is that this initiative is the beginning of a process to reach many of those girls who we have not reached and to provide a positive option for them to reach their full potential. I really believe this initiative can contribute to a change in the face of our city,” Edgerton said. “We often talk about the flight of young people from our city. Well, here are some young women whom we have not reached who could be instrumental in helping to stem that tide. The Life Academy can be a major contributor to the future outlook of our city, as well as what this opportunity will do for these girls’ lives.”
Diane Robie, who assisted with the design and writing of the proposal, also feels hopeful about this idea.
“The proposal demonstrates the city’s commitment to address entrenched issues with creative ideas from the community,” said Robie, who has expertise in grant writing and was a member of the team that helped the Pittsfield Working Cities team to secure a three-year grant from the Boston Fed. “This proposed innovation fuses a cultural response with more traditional services to realize the potential of young women and young people as a whole. It’s important to understand that this kind of support is vital to the city’s future.”
The competition is formidable, but Mayor Tyer says Pittsfield is a strong candidate and has a concept that can go the distance.
“The Life Academy” is a winning idea and I am confident that Pittsfield will be selected as a Champion City!
For more information, please contact Roberta McCulloch-Dews, Director of Administrative Services, at 413-499-9322. To view the city’s submission, visit www.cityofpittsfield.org. To learn more about the 2017 Mayors Bloomberg Challenge, visit here: http://mayorschallenge.bloomberg.org/