Karen Brown

If you've ever gotten a glimpse inside a high schooler's backpack or locker, you know organization doesn't always come naturally to teens. Being scatterbrained in school can make make it tough to stay focused and do well.

That was the case when Lilli Stordeur was about halfway through her freshman year of high school in Northampton, Mass. She felt totally overwhelmed.

"I was being tutored for the classes I was having trouble in," she says, "but I would be having a hard time organizing my binders, and notebooks and stuff, and knowing when to hand things in."

It's hard to imagine a friendship with a less auspicious start than the one between Lance Rice and Nina Rossi. In 2013, Rice, now 25, was arrested for breaking into Rossi's home while strung out on heroin. He stole her iPod and some prescription pills.

After Rice was released from jail, Rossi, who runs an art and jewelry shop in Turners Falls, Mass., decided to reach out to him.

Patrick Pezzati walks briskly through downtown Turners Falls in western Massachusetts with a hard plastic bottle in one pocket of his shorts and a pair of latex gloves in the other.

He stops to peer down steps leading to a basement. Later, he peers under a chunk of carpet lying outside.

The local record store owner is scouring the back alleys of this picturesque former mill town for used needles.

The mild New England winter means that more bears are up and about, looking for food — and not just in the woods. They're also exploring urban backyards and residential streets. The small town of Northampton, Mass., has more than its share of furry visitors.

In Northampton, a call on a neighborhood email list for tales of recent bear encounters netted about about a dozen responses in an hour. Almost everyone, it seems, has a bear story.