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Emily Vigiard

Emily Vigiard  (Community Engagement Coordinator)

By Gionna Nourse, BRIDGE Communications Intern

Emily Vigiard is a 2015 graduate from the Sociology program at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), and currently works as the Community Engagement Coordinator for Multicultural BRIDGE. She started working for our organization as an intern in the summer of 2014, and became a part-time employee in the Fall. Her advisor at MCLA, Ingrid Castro, serves on the BRIDGE board, and told Emily about an opportunity to work as an intern and continue her work with youth and potentially begin work in community in the areas of the growing epidemic of drug use and abuse in the County. BRIDGE had just signed on as minority and women-run partner to a multi-year grant Berkshire Opioid Prevention Abuse Collaborative (BOAPC).

Since that time, Emily has not only brought hard-work, her passion for sports, a love for working with youth in areas of health & wellness, a strong desire to help the community in the area of drug use and abuse, and a growing desire to want to help promote and expand the organization of BRIDGE, but she has also introduced three members to the BRIDGE team. The first is Erin Coty, Emily’s Mother, who works as the Accounts Manager, the second is Rena Garzone, Emily’s Aunt, who bravely shared her story of recovery at a BRIDGE event, and the third is Gionna Nourse, Emily’s lifelong friend & MCLA Communications intern.

Multicultural BRIDGE has engaged with BOAPC for cultural competence support for the collaborative, empowerment of a marginalized community, and community education. On behalf of BRIDGE for our BOAPC contribution, Emily attends Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (NBCC) monthly forums, the nb21 meetings in North Adams, MA, Community Health Advisory in Great Barrington, the BOAPC monthly meetings, and many other related events & BOAPC subcommittees. In addition to the cultural competence consulting Gwendolyn provides, BRIDGE held  showing of “The Fix” and “The Anonymous People”, both films centered around Americans struggling with substance abuse, which Emily organized.

The film “The Fix” was shown to community members on May 3rd and 5th throughout Berkshire County, and helped people who don’t understand the power of addiction understand it a little bit better. “The general message in “The Fix” portrayed what the common story of addiction is very well and it was very real and powerful,” she said. “It is a great thing for people who don’t understand to see”. Rena, for the first time, stepped forward to share her story with others at this film discussion, in hopes to educate those who have either experienced it themselves, or know someone who is fighting the same battle she once did.  “There is so much more I want to do,” she said. Rena wants to work with others by participating in grief counseling, and other types of programs for anyone who has ever experience loss or addiction. “It is healing to be able to talk to someone, and just tell them your situation,” she said. Rena is an amazing addition to BRIDGE, because there are not many people in this world who are strong, resilient and brave enough to share their struggles of addiction & recovery with others in their community at large in order to touch those that might not make it to a meeting. When BRIDGE holds more events that focus on substance abuse prevention, Rena says “she will be happy to be a part of anything she can.”

Last year, Gwendolyn offered Emily the opportunity to design a class based on her strengths as a coach, she designed “Get Up” in 2014 with middle and high school ELL (English Language Learners. Gwendolyn and JV have designed Happiness Toolbox out of their holistic and positive psychology backgrounds as a mentor program and Emily has eagerly become a part of the instruction team bringing her own expertise. The “Happiness Toolbox” classes she taught with JV Hampton-VanSant, BRIDGE Youth Engagement Coordinator, in Fall and Spring of 2015 at Crosby and Stearns. This summer, she will work with JV again, teaching “Happiness Toolbox Class” through Project Connection at Muddy Brook Elementary School in Great Barrington, MA for BRIDGE’s partnership with the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant. The opportunities at BRIDGE have given the Emily the space to learn and grow building her dreams of running a program for youth some day. “I really like working with kids, and BRIDGE has given me the opportunity to gain experience with people from all different backgrounds,” she said.

Emily is eager to continue working with BRIDGE throughout her journey into graduate school, and hopes to meet new people and gain new skills along the way. “BRIDGE has presented so many opportunities to me, and has given me the chance to gain experience in my field while still going to college,” she said.

Emily has not only introduced valuable members onto the BRIDGE team, but she has also guided them to avenues to be actively engaged as change agents in their areas of interest and passion. Emily started at BRIDGE as an intern, but she quickly became a part of the BRIDGE family investing in its growth, sustainability and impact as one of our Engagement Coordinators. (GN)