A Southern Berkshire County nonprofit group that works with young people is bringing in a new staff member.
Chris Tucci is the Deputy Director of the Railroad Street Youth Project.
“Railroad Street Youth Project is a youth-founded organization," he told WAMC. "We started in ’99, by youth and for youth, and it’s designed to empower young people and to foster intergenerational communication.”
Based in Great Barrington, the nonprofit is funded by its board of trustees, private donations, and grants. One of the programs the project offers the 600 to 800 young people it serves every year is its apprenticeship program.
“The apprenticeship program really gets people to be with folks who love what they do, and to see people who are passionate about the work that they do, the lives that they lead, and to inspire and excite young people," said Tucci.
To that end, a new face has joined the project’s staff of about a dozen: Nancy Villalobos, the new Apprenticeship Coordinator.
“I grew up in Miami, and I went to magnet art schools since I was in third grade, so I really enjoyed expressing myself through art and through fashion and that stuff," she told WAMC. "And here at Railroad Street, I feel like even all my coworkers are so creative and open minded. It’s a good space to be.”
After attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, she came to the project after working at the Northeast Community Center in Millerton, New York. It was in late 2018, just as the culinary apprenticeship program came to its grand finale with its annual Culinary Arts Dinner.
“And, you know, we served like 200 people and made about – I think it was like 400 plates over the span of two hours," said Villalobos. "So it was a big, big event for me, and I think I learned a lot from that.”
The programs she’ll be running last six to eight weeks throughout the year.
“There’s been in the past a lifeguard apprenticeship that we work with Berkshire South Community Center, and that’s also lead to opportunities for young people to work for lifeguarding in different parks around the county,” said the new apprenticeship coordinator.
Tucci says that kind of opportunity is what the apprenticeships are all about.
“There’s a young person who just completed the culinary apprenticeship last year who’s at the Arizona School of Culinary Arts," he said. "One of our young folks who went through the program wound up being hired at John Andrews Farmhouse and rose up through the ranks.”
Villalobos is already mapping 2019.
“I’m working on starting a ceramics apprenticeship with a local artist, so we’re trying to get that started this month," she told WAMC. "And we’re also going to be doing a cosmetology apprenticeship with the Mulberry Salon in Great Barrington.”
Tucci has his own goals for the new year as the project’s Sexual Health Education Facilitator.
“We’re going to be teaching and completing all of our comprehensive sexual education at the school districts," he said. "We’ve also added Simon’s Rock. We’re talking to the Berkshire Waldorf School as well about working with them to get some comprehensive sexual education to them.”
For more on the Railroad Street Youth Project, click here.