Category Archives: Category: 2023 NEWSLETTERS

Dear Shepherds Friend,

Welcome to the beginning of a new school year! This is an exciting time as Shepherds welcomes sixteen new young people to our Shepherds’ Class of 2025. We’ve all been highly impressed and encouraged the by way this class of students has bonded in two programs held this two summer – Shepherds’ Cougar Camp for Kolbe Cathedral freshman in August and the Notre Dame’s Summer Xperience held earlier this summer.

It is also an exciting time because our recently graduated Class of 2021 is launching into the next phase of their academic careers. We’ve had a few of these Shepherds graduates stop by our office and it’s been wonderful to see the excitement and confidence they have about their futures. Seeing our graduates achieving their dreams makes all of us at Shepherds very proud of them.

In this newsletter you will see two stories reflecting our past. These stories highlight the enduring nature of what the Shepherds program provides both the student and the mentor. One is about former Shepherds Board Member and Mentor, Ruby Melton. Ruby and her mentee, Ernie Santiago NDWH ’18, remain close friends as he finishes up his degree in nursing at Quinnipiac University. Another look back comes from KCHS ’16 alumnus Jason Howell. In a recent Zoom interview, he discusses the importance of his mentor for life, Tom Luciano. These stories reassure me that we are succeeding in our mission.

As we begin the new school year full of great hope and anticipation, we are obviously still saddled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our school partners are doing a wonderful job ensuring the academic environment is as normal as possible during this time. We are grateful for their hard work.

While the school year ahead may have some bumps in the road here and there, Shepherds is confident that together with our school partners, our Shepherds Mentors and Students, we can navigate the challenges ahead. “Adapt, Innovate, and Overcome” remains Shepherds’ motto this year and it reflects a deep commitment to our mission of Changing Lives…One Student at a Time – no matter what curves life throws our way. Thank you for your many and generous contributions of time and treasure, and most of all your caring!

Stay safe, well and let’s enjoy the future!

Dan McAuliffe

director announcement
Dear Shepherds Friend,
Each year Shepherds applies for grants from approximately 15 – 20 private family, corporate and community foundations to help fund elements of Shepherds programs not covered by mentors, individual sponsors, donors and Board of Directors.
Foundation grants typically contribute 15-20% of our total annual budget. They help fund tuition expenses, mentor programming and support, along with academic skills, college prep and career planning.
In recent weeks, we are grateful and honored to report that three of our most loyal and generous grantor foundations sent us checks increasing their funding to Shepherds:

All of these foundation grants and the other ones funding Shepherds come from personal relationships developed over time. There is little effectiveness in “cold-calling” a foundation. You have an introduction, an “in”, for most foundations to allow a non-rofit to apply for a grant in th first place.

We ask all readers of this Newsletter if you have an affiliation with a foundation or know the name of a foundation that would be interested in supporting an organization like Shepherds, to kindly consider introducing Shepherds to the key people at the foundation. You never know which door will open and what difference new funding can make to the young people and families we serve!  

Best wishes for a continued safe and hopefully relaxing August! We’ll see you in September!

Dr. Andre Sofair is a Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Yale Medical School and holds a secondary appointment in the School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases. In addition to this impressive resume, Dr. Sofair has spent the past four years as a Shepherds Mentor to graduating NDWH student, Jamar, who will be attending Trinity College this fall. Dr. Sofair found the experience so rewarding that he has signed up to mentor an incoming Notre Dame freshman/Shepherds Student this fall.

When asked what made the mentoring experience so enjoyable that he volunteered to mentor again, Dr. Sofair said, “Very few things are as valuable as a good education. It is what gives you wings to soar and explore the world.  It gives you the skills to contribute to your community and freedom to choose how to do so.  I can think of no better way to share my time then to mentor a young man during his high school years.”

Thank you to Dr. Sofair and all our Shepherds Mentors for guiding our Shepherds Students.

Jim Borger completed his first Shepherds tour this year with KCHS 2021 graduate Kevin C., who will be attending Fairfield University this fall. Jim provided us with these insightful and meaningful thoughts on his Shepherds’ experience.
“I really love the Shepherds program, especially given the current climate in our country. Shepherds help you focus on what matters – helping the kids get more opportunities than they would have otherwise and making them realize the sky is the limit.
I had it easy. My student Kevin was an incredible match to me and he was a good, genuine kid. I felt like I made an impact on him by being an adult male role model who took a strong interest in his well being. I helped him stay disciplined and focused on what matters. Positive feedback goes a long way to helping a student. By broadening Kevin’s horizon and helping him think outside his bubble, I feel like I made a positive contribution to his success.
It is clear to me that Shepherds Students have as much potential as any other teenager in Connecticut. What they may lack is a safety net and the OPPORTUNITY to succeed. The Shepherds program provides that opportunity and I am so glad to be a part of it with Kevin.”
Jim re-enlisted for his second Shepherds student starting this fall. Thanks, Jim, for all that you have done. We look forward to another four years with you.

Mike Donahue, a Notre Dame West Have alumnus, is a pro at being a Shepherds Mentor. This year Mike celebrated the NDWH graduation of his FOURTH Shepherds student. With that much experience, we asked Mike to share with us what makes him come back each time.

“When your student graduates from high school, you’ll look back on the past four years. It’s a great feeling knowing that your words of encouragement, “You’re doing a good job,” or the motivational effect of asking “What can I do to help you achieve your goals?”  helped your student achieve success in high school–a success that directly impacts his or her success in college and in life.  Being involved in the Shepherds program is an invaluable experience–for your student and for you.

When invited to become a Shepherds mentor again, it’s an invitation I cannot refuse and am happy to accept. “

Mike is picture here with his student Maicol, ND ’21. Maicol will be attending Fairfield University this fall.

director announcement


Perhaps it’s the post pandemic version of Newton’s Third Law of Motion* that makes this spring’s celebration of completing the school year and our seniors’ graduation that much more celebratory and joyous.

The forces of the health crisis, job disruptions, and hybrid school days that pushed us into isolation and worry generated the deservedly powerful rebound of our spirits and appreciation of what our 17 seniors in particular, and all of our Shepherds students accomplished this past year. The words “admirable resilience” understates the character, drive and perseverance of what we have seen from the graduating seniors and all of our Shepherds students.

This month we celebrated the seniors’ perseverance, hard work, their successes, and their futures.  They set a standard for their classmates to aim for. They set an example of what the rest of us can learn from.

The Shepherds organization congratulates our graduating seniors, their families, mentors, and school teachers, counselors and administrators for bringing home a success story that we’ll likely be telling for many years. 2020 – 2021 is the past… the future is unknown but we have learned that we as “team” are on the rebound for bigger and better things.

Lives have changed – our students’, our mentors’ and all of us around and with you for the past four years. Congratulations!

Have a wonderful and safe summer!


*Law of Action and Reaction (PS I had to Google this)

director announcement

Dear Shepherds Friends,

The month of April normally brings many positive themes to our attention –  longer days, warmer sun, birds chirping early in the morning, and a budding optimism for the coming months. This year obviously brings all those normal occurrences but with the added cautious optimism of a world recovering from a pandemic health crisis.

For our Shepherds students and community, this spring also brings the opportunity to be back in the classroom more, to engage in team sports, and for students and mentors to see each other in outdoor settings.  We again congratulate our students, their families, mentors, our school partners for the good faith effort all put into making this past year as successful as one could hope.

With that renewed sense of optimism and self-confidence, it’s time to call upon on this collective strength of the Shepherds community to help build for the school year 2021 – 2022.  As you might realize from the financial and personal repercussions of the last year, the need for a quality education in a safe environment, for a positive role model in the life of a young person and the support of an organization where the 14 year old high school student is the “franchise player” has rarely been greater.

What I am asking is simply to invite our Shepherds family to spread the word about what Shepherds does, the opportunity it provides to underserved individuals, the impact it makes “changing lives”, and the rewards it bestows on students, mentors and donors alike.  Being part of the Shepherds team does require tangible effort and resources; the rewards, however, are immeasurable intangibles!

We are now interviewing over 15 students and expect more to be seeking to participate in Shepherds’ Class of 2025.  We are seeking mentors and financial resources to meet that demand. The Shepherds’ story sells itself. Thank you for passing it along.

With your assistance we can again prove that We are Better Together, in every sense and application of those words.

Together with our partner Notre Dame High School, we will hosting a dynamic panel discussion about the impact of mentoring youth in your community.

Our panelists will be Bob Cunningham, Henry Rondon, and former ND/Shepherds Student and Mentor Jonathan Kearney. Their bios can be found in the flyer below.  To register for this event, please click here.

director announcement

Dear Shepherds Friend,

With just a little over three months to go in this school year, our successful 2020 COVID motto, Adapt, Innovate and Overcome is graduating early. From lessons learned over the past year and new skills developed, we celebrate a new sense of community in the Shepherds family. Building on the past and looking ahead, we inaugurating our new motto, “We’re Better Together.”

This health crisis has forced us to take stock of what is important and, more importantly, who is important in our lives. There has been nothing ‘extra’ during the past year. Everyone has been forced to winnow our personal contacts and activities to the bare essential – to the crucial.

The Shepherds team recognizes more than ever your indispensable role in our mission of closing the education opportunity gap in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

On behalf of the Shepherds Board and Staff, I want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank our mentors, families, school liaisons and school partners for pulling together and making this past school year a successful one, despite the challenges faced on so many levels. Each one of you is part of our critical ‘pod’, ensuring the success of our program for our Shepherds Students. There is still more work to be done.

As we are hopeful about the end of this health crisis with vaccines rolling out at a steady clip, Shepherds is already looking to the future by planning for the fall of 2021 by lining up mentors and financial resources for the incoming class. Circling back to our motto of We’re Better Together, we would like to ask that you become Shepherds Ambassadors by sharing information about our program with individuals like yourself who want to make a big impact on high school students in their own backyard. We will be sending a Spread the Word About Shepherds Tool Kit in another email soon. We appreciate any assistance you can give us.

Working together, we believe the future is bright for current Shepherds Students and the incoming class of 2025. Real change is more than any one of us can do alone – but it’s not more than all of us can do TOGETHER.



Dan McAuliffe

Executive Director