Around Amherst: Area youths to be honored with heroism awards

  • Signs near Amherst Town Hall in 2020 remind people that masks are required. Town Hall is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with safety protocols in place. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Monday, June 07, 2021

AMHERST — Area youths showing compassion and concern for their neighbors, including Summit Academy students who completed anti-racist art projects, are being honored with the Human Rights Youth Heroism Awards Saturday.

The Human Rights Commission, which has put together the celebration for 14 years, is having a picnic for the recipients at Mill River Recreation Area in North Amherst from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Jennifer Moyston, a staff liaison to the commission, said seven students in the public schools, as well as two groups, will be recognized. The larger group from Summit Academy completed drawings, paintings and photographs for the anti-racist effort, while the smaller group, at the same school, created a video from the submissions.

A year after the event was virtual due to COVID-19, the commission took nominations and then planned for the in-person recognition that can happen due to the lifting of the state’s emergency orders

Buildings reopen

Soon after Amherst Town Hall on Tuesday opened to the public for the first time since the pandemic began, a couple arrived at the town clerk’s office for a marriage license.

Moments later, on the sunny late spring day, Town Clerk Susan Audette, a justice of the peace, married the couple at the nearby Sweetser Park.

Town Hall will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., following guidance from the state’s Department of Public Health and other safety protocols in place for the first few weeks. This includes a requirement that masks be worn, that social distancing be practiced and other rules be followed, such as capacity limits.

COVID ambassadors will greet people at the Main Street entrance and hand out masks and make sure there aren’t long lines at service windows.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said town employees feel safe and are happy to have people return to the building. Public meetings, though, are continuing in a virtual format and will not be held at Town Hall at this point.

At other town buildings, such as police station, fire station, Department of Public Works and Amherst Recreation Office, the same rules are being used, while the Bangs Center, where the Senior Center is located and being used as a vaccination site, will continue a modified scaling up of in-person activities throughout the month.

Sojourner Truth awards

Two Amherst Regional High School students are among seven area high school seniors who have earned Sojourner Truth Social Justice Awards.

Emilia Lambert-Mergendahl and Monica Cage are both receiving $1,500 scholarships from the committee that honors the 19th century abolitionist and women’s rights activist who lived in Florence.

Cage, president of the People of Color United at the high school, said she has spent her life engaged in social justice work.

“I’ve always been involved in social justice and fighting racial inequality,” Cage said.

She also recalls writing an essay about Truth several years ago and knowing committee members. “A lot of people who have influenced me are on that committee,” Cage said.

The awards ceremony this year was held in a virtual format rather than at the statue in Florence.

New CISA board members

The board of directors for the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture has three new members, including farmers from Sunderland and Hadley.

Kat Chang Laznicka of Sunderland owns and operates Reed Farm in Sunderland, a small-scale pastured poultry farm and licensed poultry processing facility since 2019.

Wally Czajkowski of Hadley owns Plainville Farm, where tobacco and vegetables are grown.

Finally, Jenny Ladd of Northampton is a philanthropic advisor as well as fundraising coach and trainer on race and class issues.

Meetings, all virtual via Zoom

MONDAY: Public Art Commission, noon, Design Review Board, 5 p.m. and Town Council, 6:30 p.m.

TUESDAY: Public Shade Tree Committee, 5:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY: Community Resources Committee, 7 p.m.

THURSDAY: Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m.