Briefcase

Briefcase

Unify Against Bullying Accepting Grant Applications

SPRINGFIELD — Unify Against Bullying Executive Director Christine Maiwald announced that the organization is accepting grant applications online. The organization will be awarding $15,000 in microgrants, which can be anywhere from $500 to $2,000. Paul Mitchell and its Neon product line will award an additional $1,000 grant. “Our number-one goal is to inspire youth of all ages and to ignite their ideas as to how to prevent bullying,” Maiwald said. “We encourage parents, guidance personnel, teachers, administrators, and charity partners to also apply. Their programs must be dedicated to anti-bullying education and furthering the Unify mission: to bring an end to bullying through the celebration of true diversity.” In addition to providing the seeds for children to come up with ideas on how to prevent bullying, Unify’s high-school students attend events and are given the opportunity to speak with younger students on the value of celebrating differences. The students are also bringing education to their younger peers in school to explain what bullying is and the effects it has on an individual. The organization has a committee of volunteers who will select the applicant initiatives that best reflect and advance the organization’s mission.

Opioid Overdose Deaths Decline in Massachusetts

BOSTON — Opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts have fallen steadily over the past three quarters even as the presence of fentanyl in overdose deaths reached an all-time high. The presence of fentanyl in the toxicology of those who died from opioid-related overdose deaths rose to nearly 90% in 2018, underscoring its impact as the driving force behind the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, according to the latest quarterly opioid-related deaths report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). The report illustrates the changing nature of the epidemic, with cocaine now surpassing heroin in the toxicology for opioid-related deaths, beginning with the fourth quarter of 2017 (October through December). DPH officials reissued a June clinical advisory to all medical providers to warn them about the increase of fentanyl in cocaine. Overall, 2017 saw a 4% decrease in opioid-related overdose deaths from 2016. The data also shows that the Commonwealth has experienced a 30% decline in opioid prescriptions since the launch of the Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program (MassPAT) in August 2016. Between April and June 2018, searches by registered prescribers to MassPAT increased by 100,000 searches over the previous quarter, making it the largest increase in searches conducted in a single quarter.

Teach Western Mass Awarded License to Certify New Teachers

SPRINGFIELD — Teach Western Mass (TWM) was recently ​approved as a sponsoring organization for teacher licensure ​by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to train and certify new teachers in the region through the Teach Western Mass Residency. ​TWM completed a rigorous program-approval application process that demonstrated it is able to meet all the requirements for teacher-preparation programs, ​and expects to certify 20-50 aspiring special-education and ESL teachers annually to serve in partner schools in Holyoke and Springfield. Launched in 2015, TWM represents a network of 29 schools serving more than 11,000 students in Western Mass. Collectively, TWM and partner schools work to recruit, prepare, and support effective teachers in the region. The TWM Residency was established in 2018 in partnership with the nonprofit education organization TNTP and funded by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help build high-quality, diverse teacher pipelines for hard-to-fill teaching positions. An accelerated, affordable alternative to traditional certification programs, the program targets recent graduates, career changers, and professionals already in the education sector, including paraprofessionals and substitutes, seeking to earn their initial teacher certification. Once accepted into the program, participants will complete an intensive summer training and teach in classrooms under the guidance of an experienced coach. Their training is focused on the most important skills they’ll need to be successful in their first year of teaching and beyond. Only those who show that they’re on the way to mastering those core instructional skills at the end of training will be recommended for certification. The application for the 2019 cohort launches on Nov. 1​. Aspiring teachers can apply for the program by visiting ​www.teachwesternmass.com​.

Institute for Applied Life Sciences Boosts Industry Relationships

AMHERST — In addition to directing the Human Testing Center at UMass Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS), Michael Busa is managing the new class of research relationships emerging for the state’s largest public university campus, with corporate partners in biotech and healthcare. “It’s a new world for research academics,” said Busa, “because, even though we are a public university, when companies come to us looking for research support, they want to retain their intellectual property. There are new rules, and we now have an example of successfully navigating those new rules and relationships.” He is referring to a recent collaboration with Novartis that will see IALS researchers use the Human Testing Center’s living-science, sleep-monitoring, human-motion, and other facilities to evaluate behavior- and movement-monitoring technologies now in development. He says it is the first of what he expects to be many “big collaborations” between IALS and biotech and healthcare firms. Specifically for the Novartis collaboration, IALS researchers will assess the validity of a Novartis device in capturing detailed aspects of human motion and behavior such as walking, balance, and sleep. Busa, who has a Ph.D. in kinesiology and training in mechanical engineering, exercise physiology, biomechanics, and physical activity, will work with kinesiologists Katherine Boyer, John Sirard, and Stuart Chipkin; neuroscientist and sleep expert Rebecca Spencer; and 10 supporting students and staff.

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