Documentary Reading Our Way Out
Author: Nicole Soucy, Senior Writer, Bay Path College
LONGMEADOW— Through the establishment of an annual book drive and a monthly book club, Diane Hall, MS, assistant professor of psychology at Bay Path College, and Robert Jreaswec, casework and outreach manager at the CHD Community Adolescent Treatment Program (CATP), have been working hand-in-hand to provide Bay Path students and young men receiving CATP services opportunities to connect as young adults. The students’ work and the collaborations of Hall and Jreaswec are the subject of the documentary Reading Our Way Out, filmed and directed by Bay Path psychology student Julie Atamansky ’11 of Longmeadow.
In Atamansky’s film, youths receiving CATP services speak of the impact the students’ book drive and book club have had on their lives. The Springfield, MA-based CATP, a residential treatment facility contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS), provides a multitude of clinical, educational, residential, and vocational services to boys and young men, ranging in ages from 11 to 18 who are referred by DYS. CATP’s services prepare the boys and young men for successful re-unification with their families and re-integration in their communities.
In 2008, Bay Path’s Psychology of Criminal Behavior class visited the CATP facility, and learned of the educational issues the youth face. The Bay Path students immediately recognized a need to increase the number of books in the facility’s library, and began a book drive that fall. Students collected books from the Bay Path community to strengthen the program’s library, foster a love of reading among the youth, and encourage them to graduate from high school. The extraordinary donation of nearly 1,120 books from the Bay Path community to the teens housed at the CATP also led to an exceptional program for these young adults—a monthly book club, which connects the Bay Path students and teens as they discuss books and the importance of particular stories or poems.
“Our work with the CHD has turned out to be an incredible exercise in social entrepreneurship, mentoring, and teachable moments,” said Hall. “Putting the two groups in the same room highlighted not their differences, but their similarities.”
Atamansky worked with John Jarvis, PhD, professor of communications and English at Bay Path, to film her classmates’ involvement in the book drive and book club projects. The film features 19 Bay Path undergraduates and alumnae, numerous boys who have benefited from the book drive and book club projects, and local community members. The literary initiatives have influenced the lives of all involved from the Bay Path psychology students and CATP clients to the individuals who donated books. “For me, it was important to show how our lives can be transformed by what had started as just a simple idea,” said Atamansky. “Through the book drive and book club, we have been able to open these young men’s eyes to greater possibilities.”
According to Hall, a young man received his first library card from the Springfield Public Libraries, one just passed his GED, and another recently enrolled in college courses. Today, many of the young men have aspirations to pursue higher education, being the first in their families to earn bachelor’s degrees. “Reading has taught me new things,” said a young man at the CATP. “I have learned there is more to the world besides what’s in my neighborhood, and I want to go to college.”
“This collaboration between Bay Path College and CHD has produced unexpected results,” said Hall. “The students are very proud of the film, and they clearly demonstrate that by working together, lives can truly be transformed. These young men have been very courageous as it takes a lot for them to feel comfortable and share their stories. This film acknowledges these young men and our students for their efforts.”
To view the film and learn more about Bay Path students’ work with CATP, click here.