NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s commitment to promoting community health and wellbeing has taken a significant step forward with the awarding of $30,000 in grants to three organizations dedicated to serving BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) youth in Amherst.

The recipients of these grants, each amounting to $10,000, include Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Hampshire County, the Amherst Regional School System, and Community Leaders United by Overcoming Hardships (CLUBOH). This funding reflects the hospital’s dedication to its three-year community health improvement plan, running through 2025, which identified youth wellbeing as a top priority, with a specific focus on BIPOC youth within the Amherst community.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Lynnette Watkins, expressed enthusiasm for supporting these organizations, saying, “The work being done by these organizations, in support of our local youth, is outstanding, and it’s a privilege to support them. These projects are critical for not only the current health and wellness of our youth but for the future of our entire community.”

Expanding Mentoring Opportunities with BBBS

BBBS of Hampshire County will utilize the funds to expand mentoring opportunities for BIPOC youth in Amherst. Their project will address the crucial need for trauma-informed support services for low-income children, with a specific focus on BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. The initiative aims to fill the gap in quality youth programs for children residing in low-income housing, with mentorships designed to boost children’s confidence, compassion, and reduce social isolation.

BBBS Program Director Susan Nicastro expressed gratitude for the collaboration with the hospital, stating, “Our program is an ideal fit with Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s priority to build unified communities that listen to youth and support them. We are so grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the hospital as we work together to support youth in reaching their full potential through one-to-one mentoring relationships.”

Breaking Barriers: Conversations on Race and Class at Amherst High School

Amherst High School plans to allocate the grant funds to its “Breaking Barriers: Conversations on Race and Class” speaker series. This initiative aims to create a safe and inclusive space for students and educators to engage in discussions about race and class. The ultimate goal is to involve a significant portion of the community, fostering a ripple effect of positive change by equipping individuals with the knowledge and tools to address issues of race and class in their everyday lives.

Amherst High School Principal Talib Sadiq highlighted the significance of this effort, stating, “This effort will serve as a valuable educational tool, enabling ongoing learning and dialogue for our Amherst and ARHS communities. I appreciate Cooley Dickinson’s efforts to support inclusive and equitable atmospheres all throughout our community.”

Empowering Youth through College Tours and Career Development with CLUBOH

CLUBOH intends to use the grant funds to expand its college tours of historically black colleges, creating additional selection slots for Amherst high school students. Additionally, the organization plans to host holistic career development nights for local youth and families. These lesson plans are designed to help youth explore their personal interests and passions, while providing memorable experiences that encourage participants to become leaders within their community.

Ty Ward, Director and CEO of CLUBOH, expressed gratitude for the hospital’s support, saying, “Our youth will sustain positive outcomes by receiving proper guidance and assistance to successfully accomplish all goals for their selected career pathways – whether it be through college, jobs, trades, graduate school, entrepreneurship, or becoming a business owner. We are grateful that Cooley Dickinson believes in our mission of giving back to our community.”

Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s financial support to these organizations underscores its commitment to fostering a healthier and more inclusive community, particularly for BIPOC youth in Amherst, ensuring they have the opportunities and resources needed to thrive.

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