Act Now! Workshops

Act Now! Civic Participation Workshops for Everyone
Saturday, April 1st, 9:00am-4:15pm
Berkshire Community College, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Click image to download a full-size PDF of the event poster.

 Workshop Handouts & Presentations

Please see below for full workshop descriptions & presenter bios.

Calling Your Legislators (Alisa Costa)

Civics 101: Federal Politics (Richard Delmasto)

Civics 101: Local Politics (Mayor Linda Tyer)

Civics 101: Local Politics (Councilor John Krol)

Civics 101: State Politics (State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier)

Conversations Across the Political Divide (Liz Recko-Morrison)

Door-to-Door Canvassing (Frank Farkas & Sherwood Guernsey)

Running for Local Office… or Helping Someone Else To (Andrea Harrington & Kristen Elechko)

Running for Local Office… or Helping Someone Else To (Councilor Donna Todd Rivers)

Social Media Basics (Robin Catalano)

Social Media Basics (Amy Chin)

What is Cultural Competence and How It Can Make You a More Effective Activist (Shirley Edgerton)

Writing Effective Letters to the Editor (Lee Harrison)

Workshop Descriptions & Presenter Bios


Opening & Closing Remarks

9:30am (Eleanore Velez & Congressman Richard Neal)

3:45pm (State Senator Adam Hinds)

Eleanore Velez is currently the Interim Director of Student Engagement at Berkshire Community College. She has served as an admissions counselor and the coordinator of the Multicultural Center at Berkshire Community College (BCC) and has been at BCC since 2007. Eleanore was born and grew up in Mexico City, Mexico. As a girl, she spent thirteen summers at Chimney Corners Camp, a YMCA camp in the Berkshires. In the fall of 2014, she was honored by Literacy Network of South Berkshire (LitNet). Eleanore holds an associate’s degree from BCC and a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College. She resides in Lee, MA.

Congressman Richard E. Neal represents the First Congressional District of Massachusetts in the United States Congress. Richard Neal was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and was raised and educated in the City of Springfield. He received a BA in Political Science from American International College and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the Barney School of Business and Public Administration at the University of Hartford. He served as the Mayor of the City of Springfield from 1984 to 1988. Richard Neal was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1988. He is the Ranking Member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

Adam Hinds is a Massachusetts State Senator representing Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties. Adam was raised in Buckland, where his mother was a librarian and his Vietnam Veteran father was a school teacher. He studied at Wesleyan University before studying international law and negotiation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He started Pittsfield Community Connection, a program to help at-risk youth. Adam worked on the campaigns of Congressman John Olver and John Kerry. He spent nearly ten years working in the Middle East on international issues. Before being elected to the State Senate, Adam was the Executive Director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition based in North Adams.


Calling Your Legislators

1:30-2:30pm & 2:45-3:45pm (Alisa Costa)

Does your call really matter? When do you call an elected official about issues you care about? Who is the right person to call? What do you say? This session will explore the use of individual phone calls and campaigns to impact decision makers and help you develop your own strategy for success.

Alisa Costa, Initiative Director of the Berkshire Bridges Working Cities, recently moved to Pittsfield after nearly 20 years of non-profit advocacy in New York State. She has advocated for Hunger Solutions New York, the New York AIDS Coalition, Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York, and the New York Civil Liberties Union through direct action lobbying, grassroots organizing, and public policy work.

Civics 101: Federal Politics

1:30pm-2:30pm & 2:45-3:45pm (Richard Delmasto)

A fundamental explanation of the workings of the federal government, with an emphasis on the U.S. Congress. Who are our federal legislators and how can they be contacted? What’s the difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives and how do they function? Why does Congress have an approval rating below 10%? What can a Congressman or Senator’s office do for me? How are constituent inquiries handled? If I have any ideas or opinions on issues, how and where can I express them? How one can easily become active in following the actions and votes of your federal legislators.

Richard Delmasto served as senior caseworker and congressional aide for former Congressman John W. Olver from 1994-2013, working in the Pittsfield District Office. Now retired, he was also a Berkshire Eagle reporter, legislative assistant to former State Representative Chris Hodgkins, and a technical writer for Soldier On. He holds a Master’s Degree in American Studies.

Civics 101: Local Politics

11:15am – 12:15pm (Mayor Linda Tyer) & 1:30-2:30pm (Councilor John Krol)

Local government plays an essential role in the community-one in which citizens can get involved through leadership, policy, and administration. Our local government helps to create a welcoming and thriving environment for all. As the chief elected official for the City of Pittsfield, Mayor Linda M. Tyer will present a workshop on Civic Engagement and Participation. She will outline her path into politics while also providing an inside perspective of how any person can become involved in local government and become a change-making activist on critical local issues.

Mayor Linda M. Tyer was inaugurated as Mayor of the City of Pittsfield in January 2016, and is the first mayor to be elected to a four-year term in the city’s history. Mayor Tyer’s experience is honed from her work in law firms, school systems, and city government. Her elected roles in the City of Pittsfield include City Clerk and Ward 3 City Councilor, serving as a member of the City Council’s committee on Ordinances & Rules, Finance, and Public Health and Safety; she also served as the City Council representative on the Community Development Board. Mayor Tyer was also a founding member and past president of the Samuel Harrison Society in Pittsfield, a cultural preservation group. Mayor Tyer is an alumna of the Leadership Institute for Public Policy and Impact (LIPPI).

Pittsfield City Councilor John Krol is Vice President of Pittsfield City Council and was elected Ward 6 City Councilor in 2009. He began a career as a journalist in newspaper and then radio working at WNAW/WMNB-North Adams, and WAMC-Northeast Public Radio. He has worked as the Public Affairs Coordinator for the City of Pittsfield and Berkshire Healthcare Systems. Krol has hosted Good Morning Pittsfield, on WTBR 89.7 FM and simulcast on PCTV-17 since November 2006, inviting public officials, journalists, business and education leaders, and countless others. Now President of OneEighty Media, a full-service marketing firm, Krol is also former board president of Pittsfield Community Television, and is a member of the Pittsfield Green Commission and School Building Needs Commission. He serves on the Council’s Ordinance and Rules and Community Development committees.

Civics 101: State Politics

10:00-11:00am & 11:15am – 12:15pm (State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier)

What’s up with government?  Does it make a difference in my life?  How can I make my voice heard and change the conversation?  We’ll use concrete examples and walk through ways that you can (and must!) make an impact.

Massachusetts State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) is a native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and three children. She began her career as a teacher. She taught students overseas in Belize and Uruguay and worked to support Berkshire County’s immigrant population as Director of the Literacy Network of South Berkshire.

After serving four years as a City Councilor, Representative Farley-Bouvier was elected to the state legislature in October 2011. Representative Farley-Bouvier currently serves as House Vice-Chair on the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, and as a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, and the House Committee on Technology and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Conversations Across the Political Divide

11:15am -12:15pm & 1:30-2:30pm (Liz Recko-Morrison)

Many of us were raised to avoid certain issues in ‘pleasant conversations.’  Among the taboo subjects are politics, religion, and money. Yet in today’s world, these are the issues about which we need to talk with our families, our neighbors, or colleagues and acquaintances. More so than ever before, we need to develop ways to talk with those with whom we disagree. This workshop will share practical strategies that you can use to share your perspective. Participants will learn to find common ground and speak convincingly without deprecating those that disagree. This workshop will involve roleplaying, observation, and gentle feedback.  

Liz Recko-Morrison was once described as someone who could always find a cause for which to fight. She has been involved in fighting for many progressive causes, including her union, for almost forty years. As an instructor in psychology at BCC and MCLA as well as the Coordinator of the Testing Center, she has had many opportunities to learn to share her message. As a Quaker, she is able to bring skills in consensus-building and seeing the good in all to all of her work.

Door-to-Door Canvassing

10:00-11:00am & 2:45-3:45pm (Frank Farkas & Sherwood Guernsey)

Door-to-door canvassing is the nuts and bolts of every organizing and political campaign. What is its purpose? What is the best approach? Do you canvass everyone or are you selective? What tools can you use for canvassing? Where can you get voter lists and what information do they provide? What’s your purpose? How do you make sure people don’t shut the door in your face? How do you engage people?

Sherwood Guernsey is an attorney, Democratic State Committee member, former State Representative, former senior staff with Peace Corps, and co-founder of Berkshire Democratic Brigades and the Four Freedoms Coalition.

Frank Farkas is a founding member of the Four Freedoms Coalition, Chair of Pittsfield’s Ward 5 Democratic Committee, and the Secretary of the Berkshire Democratic Brigades. He has been a volunteer foot soldier in many political campaigns for candidates and issues.

Running for Local Office (or Helping Someone Else to)

10:00-11:00am (Andrea Harrington & Kristen Elechko)

Have you been thinking about running for office? Are you feeling inspired to actively recruit, train, and elect candidates that you believe in? The idea of running for office is downright terrifying, but running will change your life and, win or lose, your campaign will positively impact your community. We will have a frank discussion about the factors that go into making an informed decision to run. We will break the daunting process of building a campaign down into manageable pieces. We will share resources because campaigns require lots of support. You will leave feeling empowered to engage in a whole new level of political activism!

Andrea Harrington grew up in the Berkshires and is a practicing attorney at Connor & Morneau in Springfield. Andrea is a former Democratic primary candidate for the Massachusetts State Senate. Andrea’s campaign was endorsed by the Mass Women’s Political Caucus, AFL-CIO, Mass Nurses Association, American Federation of Teachers, SEIU 888 & 509, MOSES, NASW, Berkshire Building Trades and Carpenter’s Local 108. She built and managed major fundraising, staff and grassroots volunteer operations spanning 52 communities in sprawling district.

Kristen Elechko has been channeling her passion for social justice into electoral politics since her early college years. Her campaign experience began with grassroots campaigning for Senator Elizabeth Warren. The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts LIPPI (Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact) program supercharged her work, as Kristen is both a graduate and a past director of the program.  She has since worked on many local, state and national campaigns as a lead organizer and fundraiser.  Kristen served as the campaign manager for Greenfield Mayoral Candidate Patty Morey Walker, increasing voter turnout by over 40%.  She most recently served as campaign manager for MA Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier.

Running for Local Office (or Helping Someone Else to)

2:45-3:45pm (Councilor Donna Todd Rivers)

We need an active and engaged community to have strong public institutions. It is ordinary people like you and me who become politicians and make decisions about our world. City councils, town boards and school committees are often the first step into the political world. Learn what it takes to start such a campaign.

Pittsfield Ward 5 City Councilor Donna Todd Rivers is a Commissioner on the Berkshire County Commission on the Status of Women. She is an attorney and a political consultant and has been the Berkshire County Field Director for the Martha Coakley, Hillary Clinton, and Adam Hinds campaigns and the Democratic Coordinated Campaign office. She is a former city solicitor for the City of Pittsfield, and a LIPPI (Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact) graduate.

Social Media Basics

1:30-2:30pm (Robin Catalano) & 2:45-3:45pm (Amy Chin)

We will cover the ABCs of Facebook, the differences between a profile, a page and a group, and best practices for organizing and staying in touch with like-minded folks.  We will als touch on Twitter and Slack.

Robin Catalano is a freelance writer and editor, who crafts creative marketing, advertising, PR, and Web copy—including SEO writing, content marketing, and social media content and strategy—for brands both large and small. She has published over 100 articles and 1,000 blog posts, and has served as the developmental editor, copyeditor, or proofreader on more than 350 books and dozens of magazines. More info:

Amy Chin is an independent consultant specializing in serving the not-for-profit community by providing support for their donor management systems with personalized training, database maintenance and specialized reporting. In addition, Amy consults and teaches social media, website maintenance and design, and database design for nonprofits, small businesses and individuals. She has taught classes at OLLI and BCC and done training on social media, Microsoft software programs, and how to get the most out of your smartphone and tablet.

Writing Effective Letters to the Editor

10:00am-11:00am & 11:15am – 12:15pm (Lee Harrison)

In these times political activism is no longer an option – it is vital to saving our Republic. And one of the best ways to begin your activism is to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. In this workshop we will explain how to do it effectively, including: selecting a topic, organizing your thoughts, gathering information, writing and editing your letters, and where and how to get them published. Bring your ideas, and we’ll help you draft a letter – or at least start one – in the workshop.

Lee Harrison, a frequent contributor to the Berkshire Eagle, is a graduate of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He has written for many publications, including Trump Magazine, for which he was never paid!

What is Cultural Competence and How It Can Make You a More Effective Activist

10:00am – 12:15pm & 1:30-3:45pm (Shirley Edgerton)

Political activity involves working with people. Cultural competence prepares us to be inclusive in thought and practice when working with others. This workshop training focuses on understanding diversity and cultural competence in building community, cultural sensitivity, cultural awareness, implicit biases and more.

Shirley Ann Edgerton is a community activist, trained as a Diversity Trainer through a collaborative program with Brandeis University. She served as a trainer for 15 years in state government and retired after 21 years as the Director of the Berkshire County State Operated Homes for Adults.  She currently works part-time with Pittsfield Public Schools to assist in recruitment, organize diversity training and initiate mentoring programs for  students.