Around Amherst: Youth Heroes will be honored at Mill River Rec day


Staff Writer

Published: 06-09-2023 2:29 PM

AMHERST — Human Rights Commission Youth Hero awards will be presented as part of a daylong event Sunday at Mill River Recreation Area at 95 Montague Road.

The day begins with a basketball tournament, with registration at 9 a.m. and play starting at 10 a.m. Following lunch at noon, the Race Amity Day celebration, put on by Citizens for Race Amity Now!, and the awards ceremony for youth who have shown love and care for others, start at 2 p.m.

An Old vs. Young Basketball Game concludes the day at 3 p.m. The event is sponsored by various town departments and local groups, including the Julius Ford Harriet Tubman Healthy Living Community and Old & Young.

Several area students were also recently honored with $1,500 Sojourner Truth Social Justice Scholarship Awards that recognize young people who carry her heritage forward in their own way.

The 2023 scholars, recognized on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee, Suffrage100MA and Northampton, are Victor F. Cruz-Castro of Amherst Regional; Kaz Andrews, Dahlia Breslow and Aria M. Norman-Gesuelle of Northampton High School; and Ursa Sekou Shabazz of Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Public Charter School.

Truth was an advocate for justice and equality between the races and sexes during the 19th century, living in Florence from 1844 to 1857, a period in which she helped establish the village as a center of antislavery resistance.

This year’s event also included the unveiling of a historic women’s suffrage marker as one of five new Massachusetts marker sites on the National Votes for Women Trail, while live music was presented by the Amherst Area Gospel Choir.

Pastor departs

Vanessa Cardinale, the pastor of South Congregational Church since October 2015, recently announced she would be resigning, with her last day as pastor on Sunday. She expects to spend the next year in Puerto Rico closer to family.

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“I arrived at this decision from a place of needing more time with family and the space to discern where God is calling me next,” Cardinale wrote to the congregation. “After seven and a half years of serving at South Church, I am proud of all we have accomplished together and have great hope for the future of the congregation. I am deeply grateful for how you have loved and supported me and my family in our time here. It has been an honor to walk with you in times of joy, sorrow, celebration and challenge. ”

Cardinale was ordained in 2011 after attending Union Theological Seminary in New York, where she focused on immigration and theology.

She cites the change for the church as a cause of growth and renewal, and expressed confidence that, while change may be uncomfortable, it would be also be a time when God reveals new possibilities and invites new ways to walk in faith.

Cardinale is working with moderator Bruce Penniman, the church council, and the Rev. Terry Yasuko Ogawa, the area conference minister, to support a smooth transition.

Youth football event

“Try Football for a Day Youth Clinic,” a program supported by Amherst Recreation, is being held Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Community Field near the high school.

For children of all genders from ages 7 to 13, the no-contact event includes punt, pass and kick skills and 40-yard dash competitions. Local coaches and high school athletes will be there, and free T-shirts to be handed out.

Quilt displayed

A quilt created by Anni Reffsin is on view at the Jones Library throughout June to celebrate Pride Month

“With much anti-trans and other negative LGBTQ legislation, it’s very important to highlight LGBTQ joy, and that it’s accessible to the public,” Reffsin said.

Dance Theatre Ensemble

The dance program at Amherst Regional High School recently honored Tracy Vernon, who founded the ensemble 20 years ago and protected it against budget cuts before her retirement during the pandemic.

The community celebration for Vernon on June 2 was combined with an annual showcase of original student choreography. In addition, alumni came to the show to visit and dance.

Democrats caucus

Amherst Democrats will convene virtually Saturday at 10:30 a.m. to elect 17 delegates and four alternates to represent the town at the 2023 State Democratic Convention in Lowell in September.

The Amherst Democratic Town Committee is endorsing four resolutions drafted by local activists for consideration by the state party, including reparations to African Americans, climate action, rural school equity, and health care access and equity.

Registered and pre-registered Democrats in Amherst who turned 16 by May 23 can vote and be elected as delegates or alternates during the caucus. To register to attend the caucus, go to or send email to


MONDAY: Community Resources Committee, 4:30 p.m., and Town Council, 6:30 p.m.

TUESDAY: Public Shade Tree Committee, 5 p.m., beginning with hearing on tree removal at 32 College St.

THURSDAY: Public Art Commission, 6 p.m., and Amherst School Committee, 6:30 p.m.