Dear Shepherds Friends,
Have you noticed how the season for thanks-giving gives way to the season of giving? Both are relevant to our work at Shepherds.
You’ve heard from us in the past how much we appreciate the time, treasure, and talents that mentors, sponsors, donors, and all those connected to Shepherds make and how that contributes to the growth and success of our students each year.
I’d like to highlight the gift of “opportunity” that your generosity and work provides to our students.
Shepherds styles its mission as “closing the opportunity gap for our students” – primarily the educational gap but also the social, intellectual, experiential and cultural opportunity gaps. Our Shepherds’ School Liaisons working with Shepherds Program Manager have two ways of implementing this part of our three-part program: one, Shepherds initiated programs and the other, working in concert with our partner school resources and functions. Over the course of this year alone we’ve organized everything from college tours to a corn maze adventure, introduction to cyber security to working in food pantries or hauling Christmas Trees for other
community service organizations that may also be donors to Shepherds.
Planning, organizing and funding these activities and events is how we help close the opportunity the cultural, social and “life skills” gaps and fulfill the mission we’ve all signed up for.
Opportunities abound, we just need to make them available and act upon them. That’s another way of saying, “Changing Lives… One Student at a Time.”
Wishing you and your families a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season,
The Shepherds Classes of 2024 and 2025 engaged in a 4-week program offered by the College of Engineering at the University of New Haven. Each week the students met a different UNH faculty member who led them to explore the fields of mechanical and chemical engineering and data science with an overarching question; what is a robot?
The students engaged in a discussion about the difference between a robot and a machine and the present and future needs for robots. Student interest was high, and we hope this exploration in the interesting field of engineering might even open a career path for some.
Antwain “AJ” Johnson is a sophomore in Notre Dame’s Class of 2025.
There’s not much offered at Notre Dame that AJ is not involved in. Although he was recently sidelined due to injury, AJ has been playing on the ND Football team for two years as a Guard/Nose Guard. His teammates report that they love playing with him because of his positivity, enthusiasm, and pride for the school’s tradition.
Despite the long hours and grueling practices, AJ has continued to stay on track with his academics. His hard work is paying off with excellent Quarter 1 grades, and his teachers commend his engagement and effort in the classroom. Dr. Sean Gleason ‘03, Latin teacher and a current Shepherds mentor, wrote about AJ: “He is a true asset in class–he’s attentive, interested, dedicated, and a natural leader in the classroom. AJ can always be counted on to volunteer to decline a noun or conjugate a verb on the board, as well as help keep his classmates focused and on task.”
In addition to this, AJ represents the Class of 2025 as a member of the Student Government Association. In SGA, AJ works collaboratively with students and administrators to promote positive change in the school community. So far this year, AJ has helped to organize a pep rally, service projects such as breast cancer fundraising, and food donation drives.
One of the qualities we like to see as educators is students pushing the limits of their comfort zone. Since entering Notre Dame, AJ found yet another avenue to explore: Drama and Theatre. This hasn’t been easy- AJ is an active member of the football team which happens to practice at the same time as Theatre. He has managed his time nicely in order to afford himself the opportunity for both extracurriculars. Theatre Department director, Casey LaMonaca, writes, “…His positive attitude and work ethic make him a great role model for his peers…[he is] well-liked and respected by the students and adults alike.” AJ starred in the role of “Sandy” in the production The Man Who Came to Dinner which received rave reviews from the local community. With his natural talent and stage-worthy charisma, AJ is excited for the next production, Once Upon A Mattress, coming in Spring 2023.
AJ’s commitment, dedication, and perseverance to his future is truly inspiring. His mother,
Melissa Singleton, was asked how she felt about AJ’s development since entering the Shepherds/Notre Dame community. She wrote, “ I’m proud of everything- his growth in leadership, his perseverance and determination to go above and beyond, his charm and genuine spirit…I’m proud to be his mom.” When AJ was asked about what motivates him, he responded “It was always my dream to come here [ND], and Shepherds afforded me the opportunity. I know that I am supported by my mentor, Adam Novak, my family, and the school, so I will always be proud of how hard I am trying to succeed.”
Dear Shepherds Friends,
Have you noticed how the season for thanks-giving gives way to the season of giving? Both are completely relevant to our work at Shepherds.
You’ve heard from us many times in the past how much we recognize and appreciate the time, treasure, and talents that constitute the contributions made by mentors, sponsors, donors, and all those, including our dedicated staff and Board members, who contribute to the growth and success of our students each year.
On the second theme – Giving: Note, this letter is not another ask for donations or a request of your time but rather to provide some additional information and insight to the gift of “opportunity” that your generosity and work support for our students.
Shepherds styles its mission on “closing the opportunity gap for our students” – primarily the educational gaps but also the social, intellectual, experiential and cultural opportunity gaps. In this newsletter, you’ll read about what that means in terms of the events and activities our Shepherds team have organized including many in concert with individual and groups of Shepherds mentors.
Planning, organizing and running these activities and events are how we put into practice the support provided by our mentors, donors and sponsors and is an important part of how we fulfill the mission we’ve all signed up for.
Opportunities abound, we just need to make them available and act upon them.
That’s another way of saying, “Changing Lives… One Student at a Time.”
Dear Shepherds Friends,
We’re off and running in the new school year and all systems point to “GO.”
First, thank you to all the mentors and family members for making the effort this past month to show up and participate in our partner school Kick-Off events with your students. We know it’s not often easy to get a teenager away from their books and computers on a weekday evening, but over 90% of you were able to do so with nearly 100 people attending each of the Kick-Off events.
At each of our partner school Kick-Offs, the energy, enthusiasm and the optimism was palpable. This was particularly true among the 19 new student/family/mentor relationships we inaugurated this year. See below article for photos and highlights.
Concurrent with the Kick-Off events we have rolled right into student workshops, college prep activities and student-mentor get togethers. As I have mentioned in last month’s letter, we intend to focus more of our time and resources on supporting our mentors by providing optional events, like October 28th’s pre-Halloween Corn Maze, school lunch dates, and ideas for student-mentor activities. Our Shepherds website has an updated list of fun and maybe even educational and cultural activities for mentor and students to check out.
As we approach the season of thanksgiving and gift giving, I’d like to encourage mentors to undertake a community service project or projects with their students over the next two months. Remember we’re advocating for “community engagement” this year and what better way to initiate those connections than to start now. One project that has worked well in the past with mentors and students has been helping out at the Exchange Club of New Canaan Christmas Tree Sale. Click here for more details.
Bigger picture… as the days get shorter and the days turn to weeks and months, I encourage all of us including staff and Board to jump in and make the best of the beautiful fall weather and catch up on the fun we put on hold for nearly two years.
Tempus fugit!…Carpe Diem!
Dear Notre Dame Shepherds Friends,
As the new school year begins, Shepherds staff and Board look forward to a “normal”, healthy, in-person, be together, see each other’s smiling faces year! Let’s see if we can make it so!
This is also the beginning of Shepherds’ 20th year in partnership with Notre Dame High School in our joint mission of “Changing Lives.. One Student at a Time.” In the vein of taking a larger perspective, I thought I’d identify a few themes for the year.
The first is building on the extraordinary outpouring of generosity of those of you who mentor and sponsor our Shepherds students. The generosity I’m talking about is not just the financial support of the community of mentors and sponsors which is gratefully recognized, but as importantly, the time and attention given to our Shepherds students. The last two plus years took a toll on the well-being of this population of young people in particular. Shepherds will work with all of you to support your efforts to build on this positive momentum. The need is still evident and the opportunity to make a difference is before us.
The second is the sense that this fall we are taking another step on Shepherds’ 24 year journey in fulfilling our mission. We’ll have 62 Shepherds students this year which includes 20 Notre Dame young men, an equal number of dedicated mentors, solid financial footing, and an expanded program of educational, social, and college prep programs. In that regard, we are thrilled to welcome Mr. Dennis Yacono, ND Math Interventionist Teacher, as our new Shepherds Notre Dame Liaison. Dennis, NDHS ’01, had worked closely with our former, much loved ND Shepherds Liaison, Ms. Martha Giammatteo, ND Language Arts Interventionist, and consequently he is very familiar with Shepherds ND students. We’re very fortunate to have Dennis join the Shepherds’ team.
The 2022 -23 year theme that I hope all constituents can feel and take advantage of this year is the attention and care we give our mentors, both one-on-one and in organizing group activities. Our goal is to provide more opportunities to spend quality time with each other and your students. Your input and engagement with those initiatives is both requested and appreciated.
Let’s have a great year!
Dear Shepherds Friends,
I’ll tempt fate a bit and start this September newsletter off optimistically anticipating a “normal”, healthy, in-person, be together, see each other’s smiling faces year!
What makes me think so? Independent of the health context (I’d rather not mention that other word perpetually lurking out there), Shepherds comes off a celebratory 2021-22 school year and has many exciting and we hope valuable events planned for the coming fall and year. This newsletter provides some of those details but most of all I want to identify a few themes.
The first is the extraordinary outpouring of generosity of those of you who mentor and sponsor our Shepherds student. I refer both to the current Classes of 2023 to 2025 mentors and sponsors as well as the incoming Class of 2026 mentors. And the generosity I’m talking about is not just the financial support, which is gratefully recognized, but as importantly, the time and attention you give your students. The last two plus years took a toll on the well-being of this population of young people in particular. You responded! We’ve witnessed your increased time attention and expressions of caring in the academic, social and even emotional growth of the students these past two plus years. A collective and deserved thank you!
The second is the sense that this September we are taking another step on Shepherds’ 24-year journey of “changing lives…one student at a time.” We’ll have 63 Shepherds students this year, our largest group in the last six years, an equal number of mentors, solid financial funding, and an expanded program of educational, social, and college prep programs. I am also pleased to make several announcements regarding our team of professionals supporting you.
The 2022 -23-year theme that I hope all constituents can feel and take advantage of this year is the attention and care we give our mentors, both one-on-one and in group activities. Our goal is to provide more opportunities to spend quality time with your student. Your input and engagement with those initiatives are both requested and appreciated.
Let’s have a great year!
…and comes back a changed young man. Under the auspices of the Order of Malta, Dannylo joined the Youth Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, the week of August -16 for a week of service. This annual pilgrimage of youth from around the world provided a life changing experience in service, spiritual growth, and fellowship. Danylo’s trip was sponsored by one of Shepherds founders and many time mentors, Hope Carter.
When asked about his experience, Danylo said it was a bit overwhelming at first, he only knew one other person but slowly met lots of other welcoming students from all over the world. Dannylo described the week as eye opening. He was often struck by the many young people who came for healing, many who had serious struggles, yet they had a sense of humor, and great hope.
Dannylo was moved by their joyful attitudes even in the face of difficulty. Dannylo also described his own spiritual experience during the evening Rosary. He was asked to carry the statue of Mary on to the stage where he looked out at the thousands of people gathered with candles and chanting the words of the Rosary; it was a powerful moment.