Category Archives: Category: Student Accomplishments

Daniel AguirreDaniel Aguirre is a Junior in Notre Dame’s Class of 2024. Since entering Notre Dame in the Fall of 2020, Daniel has grown exponentially. When Notre Dame adopted the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in 2021, Dan applied at the end of his sophomore year. Amongst many applicants, Dan was accepted into the program.

He has since achieved first honors in the program- a program which is internationally recognized as being one of the most academically challenging program for high schoolers. In fact, colleges and universities recognize this IB diploma to be one of the most attractive achievements an applicant can have. Dan is gifted in the area of mathematics and science, and he looks forward to his college options over the next year.

His Engineering Design teacher, Dr. Yolanda Valencia, says…”Daniel is a bright young man who is always willing to help his peers. In our class he always enters the room with a kind demeanor, and a warm smile and enthusiastically participates in class discussions.” Additionally, Dan has been inducted into the “Mu Alpha Theta” Math Honor Society as well as the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society. He is excited to celebrate his induction at the Honors Night ceremony later this year.

In addition to his academic achievements, Dan’s athletic career is nothing short of impressive. Dan is a two-sport athlete of both the 2022 Class M Varsity State Champion Football team as well as the Wrestling team. This year, Daniel has seen much improvement in his wrestling record which is a testament to his hard work and determination. Notre Dame Head Wrestling coach, Rich Anderson, says… “Dan has been a leader on and off the wrestling mat. He successfully went down two weight classes and did it in a manner that he maintained his strength and health. This is the mark of a leader. He did what was best for the team. His record this year has improved immensely and he has contributed to us winning some big matches.”

When asked about the Shepherds program, Daniel’s face lit up. He remarked that without the Shepherds program, his attendance at Notre Dame High School, as well as the guidance of his mentor, would not be a possibility. He certainly has taken advantage of every opportunity offered, and we look forward to watching Daniel continue to work towards his dreams.

February is the month that Hallmark compels us to spend $5.99 one or more times to confirm our affection and appreciation to the loved ones in our lives. Now we all do that, but which ones of us actually show that affection and appreciation? That’s where the mentor-student team of Susan Terry and Ali C. shows up in living color.

A relationship that started mid-COVID behind masks and Facetime has blossomed into one of the closest Shepherds relationships in the program. Ali, a Kolbe Cathedral Junior, captain of the Girls soccer team and an academic all-star, praises Susan, “The two words to describe my mentor are caring and selfless. She cares about what I say and how I feel and never forgets what I tell her. She is a giving person who cares about others deeply.”

Susan exudes the same joy being in Ali’s life: “The two years I have known her have flown by!  In that time, she has gotten her license and taken on a part time job.  These days I often will meet her for lunch at school for a quick check in.  Ali is a good student and has a really good head on her shoulders.  We are definitely really good buddies, but I hope that I can help her to see that she is capable of so much.  She has many gifts. I look forward to the next part of the journey which includes the college process!”

I am
For over 20 years, Shepherds has been empowering inner-city Connecticut teens to build a foundation for success by helping close the educational inequality gap in Fairfield and New Haven counties.
Shepherds provides each student the tuition support to attend a college preparatory education, academic and life skills programs, and the positive role model and four-year guidance of a Shepherds Mentor.
Shepherds is repeatedly asked the question, “Who are your students?” We are able to provide the demographics of race, gender, income difficulties, etc., and these are important data points about our students. However, it doesn’t capture who they ARE.
This year, we asked the incoming freshman to write a poem entitled, “I AM.” Shepherds believes these poems are powerful statements about who our students are – what their hopes, goals, dreams and fears are.
To find out how you can be a part of changing a teen’s life, go to or contact Executive Director Dan McAuliffe at
You can make a difference, right in your own backyard.
ice cream
The final day of Cougar Camp 2020 was a great celebration of new friendships and new skills learned by our Shepherds Students.
Led by KCHS Teacher Alex Szabo, Shepherds Freshman worked together to make ice cream without using a freezer or ice cream maker. Ziploc bags, ice cubes, salt, milk, sugar, vanilla, and cocoa powder for those who wanted chocolate ice cream, were all the supplies used to make a celebratory treat! Students learned a great deal of chemistry while making their dessert. They learned about phase changes, melting points, and how salt can make a difference in freezing temperatures. Learning really is FUN-damental!
Shepherds is incredibly grateful to all the people that help make Cougar Camp 2020 a great orientation week for our Class of 2024! We would like to thank Shepherds Liaison Lisa Matson, KCHC Principal Camille Figluizzi, Dean of Student Life Rich Crocco, librarian and school technology coordinator, Shelly Stedman, and math teacher Ed Steadham.

Cougar Camp 2020 kicked-off the school year for Shepherds Class of 2024 at Kolbe Cathedral High School.

KCHS faculty, Shepherds Staff and Students all observed the proper COVID safety procedures of keeping at least 6 feet apart and wearing face coverings. Despite social distancing, students and staff were still quite social!

Getting to know their fellow Shepherds Classmates and participate in fun STEM-oriented classroom activities were top priorities on the first day of Cougar Camp. In ‘the getting to know each other activities,’ led by Shepherds Liaison Lisa Matson, students learned first-hand that physical distancing from each other doesn’t prevent one from being social.

Executive Director Dan McAuliffe stated, “Cougar Camp is a great opportunity for our newest Shepherds Students to make new friends and get comfortable in their new school. I was very happy to see students together, in person and not in a virtual setting. Lisa Matson and the KCHS staff did a great job in accomplishing their objectives.”

Shepherds Students also became familiar with the KCHS technology environment, their Google Chromebooks, funded by our generous Shepherds Donors, and safe usage of their devices. A tour of the school was given by staff to be sure our Shepherds Freshman are comfortable navigating around their new school.

Stay tuned to learn more about the rest of the Cougar Camp 2024 week’s activities!

Shepherds class of 2020

At this time of year, Shepherds would be usually be gathering together to celebrate our seniors’ accomplishments and high school graduations. With the health crisis, we are unable to host in-person celebrations. However, that does not diminish our pride in our graduates.

Our students’ hard work and determination, coupled with support from their family, Shepherds mentor and Shepherds program, have led to this moment in time where we now commemorate their achievements.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Go forth and do great things!

mentoring tradition

Gina Garzon graduated from Trinity Catholic and the Shepherds program in 2005. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Economics and MBA with a focus in Finance at University of Connecticut. She is first-generation college graduate and now is a a Vice President at TD Bank in NYC where she manages a portfolio of approximately $500MM in commercial real estate of various asset classes.

Gina began her banking career as a teller at local bank in New Canaan. “My mentor Kathy Pasternack helped me get my first banking job,” Gina claimed. “She is an amazing person, mentor, and friend. She has impacted my life and inspired me to do the same for others. My parents were incredibly supportive, but Kathy provided guidance and assistance they were unable to provide due to language and other resource issues”

Gina’s impressive resume doesn’t stop with her education and career. She has given back to her community. She has served on the board of Cardinal Sheehan Center and on the board of Prospanica, an organization which assists Hispanic students earn MBAs. Currently, she is mentoring a student through Big Brothers, Big Sisters in New York City. “Being a big sister to my little has been very gratifying. I am so happy to be giving back to others like Kathy helped me.”

Kathy Pasternack made a big impact on Gina’s life. You can make that same impact on another young person by becoming a mentor to a freshman this fall. Contact Dan McAuliffe at 203-367-4273 to find out more about Shepherds and our impact on academically and economically-challenged students.