Around Amherst: Local author to be recognized with award

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2018

AMHERST — Local author Madeleine Blais and the Amherst Regional High School theater program will be recognized with the Samuel Minot Jones Awards for Literary Achievement this spring.

The fifth annual awards will be presented at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College April 26 at 6 p.m.

Blais, a reporter and a journalism professor at the University of Massachusetts, may be best known locally as the author of “In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle,” an account of the Amherst Regional High School’s 1995 state champion girls basketball team. Her other books include “The Heart is an Instrument: Portraits in Journalism,” “Uphill Walkers: Portrait of a Family” and “To the New Owners.”

The theater program, led by John Bechtold, gives students the opportunity to do coursework in theater, participate in acting classes, write new works and direct plays, and handle design of lighting, sound and set plans. Among the notable individuals who have been in the program are playwrights Annie Baker and Madeleine George, actors Libby Woodbridge and Eric Mabius and  screenwriter and director Tom Bezucha.

Micha Archer, a local illustrator, is creating a print that will be signed and numbered and given to those who purchase tickets for $100 or more.


EmbraceRace, an Amherst based nonprofit multiracial community of parents, teachers and experts, is being recognized for its work in fighting inequality and addressing challenges that race poses to children, families, and communities. 

NBC Universal Cable Entertainment recently named EmbraceRace one of six national nonprofit “Change Makers” as part of its inaugural Erase the Hate initiative and accelerator program

Co-founded by Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas, EmbraceRace aims to foster resilience in children of color and nurture cross-racial inclusivity and empathy in all children, as well as helping families to raise children who think critically about race and supporting both child and adult advocates for racial justice.

“These six groups are tackling the kinds of systemic change it will take to create an America where everyone feels safe from hate and discrimination,” said Brittany Packnett, vice president of National Alliances at Teach For America and a member of the Erase The Hate Advisory Council, in a statement. 

Help for Leverett native

A Leverett native who has made her home on Montserrat, the small Caribbean island, is reaching out to her hometown in an effort to raise money that will help her get to a hospital in Great Britain to treat her stage two heart failure.

Heather Leonard said in an email that natural disasters have impacted the island and are preventing her from getting the medical care she needs. In August, a team of cardiologists from Mount Sinai Health System in New York did a heart ultrasound on Leonard and made the heart failure diagnosis.

One of Leonard’s six children created a fundraising website at https://www.gofundme.com/medical-for-my-moms-heart-disease.

So far, through social media, Leonard has received donations from old friends at Leverett Elementary School and the Amherst Regional schools, what she calls a “special lifelong bond.”

“I find it really touching that these childhood friends that I have not seen for 30 years are the quickest ones to be donating to help me,” Leonard said.

Talent show auditions

Auditions for the second annual Valley's Got Talent show will be held Monday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Bangs Community Center, 70 Boltwood Walk.

Applications are available on the town website at www.amherstma.gov/269/senior-center. 

The competition is open to applicants of all ages who are residents of the Pioneer Valley. The show will be held March 25, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Buckley Recital Hall, Amherst College.

Top prize for the show is $1,000, with second prize $500 and third prize $250.


MONDAY: Jones Library, Inc. Budget Committee, 9:05 a.m., Goodwin Room, Jones Library; Fort River School Building Committee, 4:30 p.m., Fort River School library; Recycling and Refuse Management Committee, 4:30 p.m., and Historical Commission, 6 p.m., both at First Floor Meeting Room, Town Hall; Select Board, 6:30 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

TUESDAY: Amherst School Committee, 6 p.m., high school library; Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m., First Floor Meeting Room, Town Hall.

WEDNESDAY: Amherst Center Recreation Working Group public forum, 7 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

THURSDAY: Joint Capital Planning Committee, 8:30 a.m., Town Room, Town Hall; Finance Committee, 7 p.m., First Floor Meeting Room, Town Hall.