New Pittsfield Community Connection Director Embarking On Expanded Efforts
A Pittsfield nonprofit focused on helping at-risk young people get on better life paths has appointed a new executive director.Pittsfield Community Connection recently named Jon Schnauber executive director. He takes over for interim director Scott Murray, who stepped in when the group’s first leader Adam Hinds took over the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition last year. Schnauber, a social worker who served in the Army and Air Force, started with PCC in March 2015 as Director of Case Management.
“It does take a village to raise a child,” Schnauber said. “Those antiquated ideas, they really need to be in play especially today. Because our kids are without so much…they’re without supervision, goals, heroes or direction. They simply need an adult a lot of times just to fill that gap and give them the support they need to grow, prosper and be a contributing member of our community.”
PCC formed in early 2014 out of the city’s Shannon Grant funding focusing on at-risk youth. Since then it’s developed a one-to-one mentor program with 45 youths paired with adults. In December 2015, the state announced it planned to spend $5 million over the next decade in Pittsfield to intervene in the lives of proven risk males aged 17 to 24. About a dozen Massachusetts communities participate in the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative.
“These are people that have been in trouble with the law,” he said. “With the juvenile justice system or the regular probation office. Our goal is to recognize these people not as criminals, felons or bad members of our community, but rather what they really are…people that have made mistakes.”
Expecting to start case management in the coming weeks, SSYI provides an outreach worker and case manager for the young people involved. Behavioral health appointments, education and even 6 months of subsidized employment are part of the program. While Pittsfield has seen a handful of startling shootings involving youth, including two deadly incidents this past July, Schnauber believes PCC is having an impact.
“We have young men and women that have been brought to our program by probation that had weapons charges, had been locked up, had ankle bracelets, they couldn’t leave their home or telephones, they were on lockdown and they were only 15 or 16 years old,” Schnauber said. “One of our greatest success stories is an individual like that. He came in. We met with him. We set him up with outreach, case management and a mentor. His mentor is extremely affluent. Three months later, he’s got straight As. He is an intern program in the company that his mentor owns. He has no problems with the law. His future outlook is career and education-focused. He is doing everything that you would want any young man to do that is going to build a really good life from themselves.”
Hinds, who still chairs PCC’s steering committee and is running for state Senate, says the timing is right for these efforts.
“Quite frankly this is exactly what the city needs because allows us to be very deliberate in targeting the youth that are most likely to be involved in such incidents that we saw this summer,” said Hinds.
PCC has also brought on Eddie Taylor as a community liaison and program coordinator. He’s created community programs like the Social Education Engaging Diversity Network and Families United Through Literacy program.