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What role could UMass play?

By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor There s a lot of talk about this week, so let s get started. When Deval Patrick, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, lays down a challenge, I m bound by honor to pick it up. During his talk with Holyoke High School and Dean Vocational High School students on Thursday, one young woman named Bianca wanted to know if the governor could do anything about the flow of bad news about students and asked if the state could do something about it. Patrick asked the student to stand by him and looked straight into the clutch of media that was present and basically said, Tell them. He also asked the press if they would report what Bianca said. After a little coaxing Bianca spoke about the accomplishments of student athletes and Patrick added that he had just learned the students graduating from the two Holyoke schools programs in metal technology and health services this year have jobs already waiting for them. And Holyoke Mayor Mike Sullivan then introduced Natalie Ortiz, who is vocational student of the year. As a community-based family owned paper, we don t try to report on a variety of stories from our communities, we actually do cover stories that don t find their way into our media. We are happy to cover student accomplishments. Drop me an e-mail at news@thereminder.com and tell me your story. *** The plan announced by American International College (AIC) to help low income commuting students " as well as the kids of municipal and county employees from throughout Hampden Country " should be seen as a great new economic development tool. My question is what are the other private colleges going to do? Writing from far-flung Syracuse, N.Y., former Reminder Publications staffer Josh Shear told me that Syracuse University offers tuition credits for students who agreed to stay in the city after graduation and work toward improving it. That sounds like a great idea to me and congrats to AIC. *** Josh wrote me via Twitter, the new-to-me social media service that allows folks to communicate with one another through messages of 140 characters or less. When I first signed up I was thoroughly confused by it. Why would anyone want to do this? The recent Podcamp Unconference in Holyoke, though, opened my eyes to how I would like to use Twitter. As I go through my day, I ll be writing about the stories I m covering on Twitter. Just go to twitter.com/gmdobbs to read what I m doing. You ll be getting news reports from me practically as it happens. If you join Twitter " it s free " you can post your comments. I swear on my vintage Three Mesquiteers poster that I will never tweet on the activities of Lucky the Wonder Bichon unless of course I m off duty from my obligations to the Flying Buendo Brothers. *** I worked for Western New England College from 1992 until 1999 and during that time there was all sorts of talk of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) coming to Springfield in some shape or form. Now it s 2009 and once again we hear that UMass wants to have a presence in Springfield, specifically downtown, and now as part of the renovation of 31 Elm St. Or the school might take over Old First Church for some purpose. Maybe. Would I like to see UMass bring in a graduate program? Sure. Do something that could compliment business growth? Absolutely. Play a few basketball and hockey games at the MassMutual Center? Yup! I ll give UMass until June 30 before I start publicly calling foul. *** A plea to Mayor Domenic Sarno: as a Springfield taxpayer, please do not enter into a lease agreement to place the School Department into the old Federal Building that will cost the city millions of dollars. The current draft of the lease calls for the city to pony up about $3 million to help rehab the building and then would charge us a higher rent than other buildings charge. Granted, I think having the employees of the School Department downtown would benefit business growth, but wouldn t it be better if the city owned the building at which they would work? This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to mdobbs@thereminder.com or to 280 N. Main St., E. Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.
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