Railroad Street

Mission

Railroad Street Youth Project empowers young people by supporting youth-inspired projects that promote responsibility, self-worth and intergenerational communication.

At Railroad Street, Youth Take the Lead.

They explore their full potential and become equipped to meet the challenging transition to adulthood. RSYP’s professional adult staff matches youth-generated ideas with community resources, empowering young people to create and oversee a wide range of innovative, life-changing projects. Unmatched in mission and scope, RSYP excels in helping youth find their voice and realize the benefits of their commitment to themselves and their community.

Approach

Railroad Street was created to ask youth a simple question: What do you want? A decade later the organization has a proven track record of providing youth with the resources to channel their energy, creativity and idealism in order to transform their lives.

Access

Railroad Street does not judge youth, creating an atmosphere where young people from all walks of life are welcome. Connections are made casually at the drop-in center and programmatically through apprenticeships and mentoring. RSYP matches its wide range of constituents with a wide range of services, as needs and interests emerge.

Challenges

Despite the natural beauty of the Berkshires, youth are nevertheless confronted with complex social challenges. Understanding that substance abuse, neglect, isolation, lack of available transportation, and other systemic challenges will never disappear, Railroad Street creates a life-affirming community of peers and intervenes by equipping youth with choices, resources and support structures.

Community

Railroad Street's operational mission prioritizes building bridges with local schools and businesses. Now, in its second decade, the organization has won the respect, support and participation of residents, volunteers, and civic and elected leaders.

Management

With smart, resourceful management and responsible stewardship, Railroad Street makes exceptional use of its modest resources. Because RSYP is such a lean organization, greater support will have an exponentially greater impact on the lives of the region’s young people.

History

In 1999, a series of drug and alcohol-related deaths forced the South Berkshire community to face the fact that it was losing its young people. Fed up with attending friends' funerals, Amanda Root, a 19-year-old high school dropout, began attending meetings of concerned citizens who called themselves the Heroin Task Force and Prevention Council.

The adults on the Task Force kept coming back to the same question, “What do the young people want?” Amanda's answer to this question was, “Why don't you askthe young people?”, and the seed for Railroad Street Youth Project was sown.

Amanda and her team soon secured a small office on Railroad Street in Great Barrington and a $2,500 fund at Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. The young staff created youth-inspired projects, workshops, performances and publications, all thanks to partnerships with dozens of businesses, artists, and other non-profits in the community. RSYP sponsored over 100 such projects during their early years, including Project Native, which went on to become athriving small business with a 53 acre farm that was the center of the movement for native plants in the Berkshires for more than 10 years.

Today, RSYP is a dynamic non-profit organization with a $300,000+ annual budget, helping young people bring their ideas and inspirations to fruition and discover their place in the world. Our services and programs have evolved to meet the changing needs of local young people. The Youth Operational Board continues to fund youth-inspired projects. We run ongoing mentoring and apprenticeship programs, provide sexual health programming through the local schools, offer job training and career counseling, and staff an active drop-in center that provides counseling, mediation, referrals and advocacy services for young people in need.

Founder Amanda Root went on to attend and graduate with honors from Bryn Mar College in 2008 and earned a Master of Art in Educational Administration from University of the Pacific in 2011. She is now theDirector of Development for a tuition free school in central Virginia.

Board of Directors

Bobby Houston, Vice President
Ben Silberstein, Treasurer
Erik Bruun
Krista Dalton
Benno Friedman
Maura Griffin
Ann Herbst
Elissa Myers
Regi Wingo