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!
Long time partners, Shepherds and Notre Dame High School have teamed up once again to bring you a dynamic panel discussion sharing the ways mentoring can have a critical impact on youth in your community. To find out more about this event, including our guest panelists, please review our flyer.
To sign up for this free event, please fill out the contact information below. Please note: if accessing via mobile or tablet and you do not see “Submit” button, just hit “Enter” and your registration will be submitted and you will see a thank you screen.
The pandemic has shined a light on socio-economic disparities in education in Connecticut. Per the CT Mirror, this Spring during the COVID-19 shutdown of schools “In Bridgeport, a full half of the student body didn’t show up regularly for remote schooling during the pandemic compared to 19% who were chronically absent before school buildings closed.” Likewise in New Haven, public school district leadership told the State Education Accountability Committee, that during the first week of remote learning this fall an estimated 65% of the students participated. As a point of comparison, Fairfield Warde and Ludlowe High Schools had participation rates in the 90+% this September per CT Data.
Now more than ever, inner city high school students have more barriers to accessing a quality, college preparatory high school education. For 22 years, Shepherds has been addressing educational disparities in Fairfield and New Haven Counties. Our track record speaks for itself. 95% of our students graduate on time and 90% attend institutes of higher learning after high school, as compared to their public school peers graduation rates of 65-75% and college entrance rates hovering around 60%.
The needs of inner city high school students in Connecticut are greater than ever. With a donation to Shepherds today, you will be investing in a student’s future and helping solve the education opportunity gap right in your own backyard.
In an exceptionally challenging year for nonprofits, Shepherds is extraordinarily grateful for a recent contribution from the Heisman Trophy Trust. Their generous gift will help fund tuition and programing for Shepherds students at Notre Dame West Haven High School.
Thank you to the Trustees of the Heisman Trophy Trust for your continuing your long-standing commitment to Shepherds and our students.
Thanks to the generosity of many individuals and foundations, like the Heisman Trophy Trust,Shepherds has been helping close the educational opportunity gap in Connecticut’s inner cities for 22 years.
Mentoring young people relies upon the power of interpersonal connections with their mentors. Maintaining those connections can be challenging during COVID and creating new ones can prove to be even trickier. Shepherds has met these challenges head-on for our new mentors for the students of the Shepherds Class of 2024.
Shepherds has a robust training program for mentors, students and their families which normally takes place in person. COVID has changed our training program to a hybrid of virtual and in-person training which has required some adjustments. We are happy to report that our new mentors and freshman students have begun making solid personal connections.
Zoom meetings kicked off mentor training with a focus on mentoring expectations and mentoring in safe virtual and in-person environments. Our staff was impressed with how engaged our mentors were during these sessions. Up next were parent and student training sessions followed up with in-person meetings for most and a virtual meet up for one mentor, student and parent.
When mentors, students and parents met for the first time, it became clear that it is easy to be social and get to know another and still stay six feet apart. Shepherds Staff witnessed the beginning of new relationships and being physically distant, wearing masks and using hand sanitizer didn’t change a thing.
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.
Here we are in the heart and the heat of the summer… with not much else certain other than the sun will come up tomorrow and it will probably be warm if it’s not raining.
But here’s what we can tell you:
We had an excellent response to our call for mentors and funding for the incoming Shepherds Class of 2024. We are bringing on a total 14 new students in the fall, 10 at Kolbe Cathedral High School and four at Notre Dame West Haven. This will increase Shepherds total population by four students to 65 students for academic year 2020-21.
Each of these students and their families were selected on the basis of financial need, academic potential, and most importantly, their demonstrated desire and commitment to be successful. We look forward to them joining the Shepherds family in a few weeks.
Most gratifying has been the many inquiries we had from prospective mentors and financial sponsors to make this large new Class possible. The willingness to make a four year commitment to change a young person’s life that has been most inspiring to us. One of the many emails from a prospective mentor captured the thought this way:
“.…Education is the ultimate “equalizer”. We as a society must ensure that all people have access to quality education and can participate fully in our society. Recent events have shown that we as a country are still far from where we need to be. I am moved to help by potentially becoming a Shepherd and sponsor and would like to learn more about your program.”
He’s signed up!
Thanks to the generosity of respondents to the spring appeal, the financial commitments made by a great number of our new mentors, and a substantial donation from one very generous family, we were put over the top for our Shepherds Class of 2024 goal of $60,000.
THANK YOU TO EACH AND ALL OF YOU!
What do we see for the last half of the summer?
We await information from our partner schools on the details of their re-opening plans.
Kolbe Cathedral Shepherds Class of 2024 Cougar Camp is planned for August 17 -21.
Most importantly, our students still need the attention of their mentors this summer. Letting them know you’re thinking of them will be a great boost to their morale.
You can also help us expand our network of friends by sharing one of our Facebook posts with your Facebook friends, sharing a Shepherds LinkedIn posting with your connections, or by forwarding this e-newsletter to friends, colleagues, and relatives. Let’s give more people the opportunity to change a life!
Best wishes for a continued safe, healthy and hopefully enjoyable summer.
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!
We hope that this finds you safe and healthy in these unsettled times.
As we face the devastation wrought on our country and our world by the Covid-19 crisis, we also acknowledge, as we always have, that there exists in this country great social and economic inequality. We understand and wish to extend our thoughts of support to all members of our extended Shepherds community who are both suffering from and troubled by these ongoing circumstances.
Shepherds’ mission remains the same today as it was 20 years ago. We continue to close the opportunity gap for young people in our inner cities by providing this under-served community with access to quality high school education, life skills training, college prep workshops and activities, and adult mentoring that helps to guide them during their most formative teenage years. Shepherds promotes educational and life opportunities for our Shepherds students by investing in and extending their human potential.
We are justly proud of our Shepherds alumni who do their part to make the world a better place in every way, including by reinvesting in their communities and by giving their time and energy back to Shepherds.
Shepherds continues unwaveringly in its mission of Changing Lives…One Student at a Time.
We thank you and welcome your continued support of Shepherds in our important and critical endeavor.
It has been six years since Mark Healey and Celia Pinzi became mentors to NDWH ’18 student Reuben Clark. Shepherds spoke to Mark and Reuben recently to ask about how being in the Shepherds’ program impacted them.
“It has been an absolute joy to watch Reuben change from a shy young freshman, to the accomplished college student, college football player and entrepreneur he is today,” stated Mark. “I got a lot more out of being Reuben’s mentor than I realized. Reuben and I still talk and get together. Recently, I reached out to him during the protests about social, racial and economic inequalities. I wanted him to know that Celia and I support him.”
Reuben attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is currently taking three summer classes and has started up one e-commerce business selling jewelry, created a business that repairs cell phone screens and is in the process of rebranding a clothing line he created. “Mr. Mark really helped me with time management and taught me how to network,” claimed Reuben. “They are like family to me. I love them to death.”
When asked what they would tell a person who is considering becoming a mentor, both had similar answers. “If you want to help shape the life of a young man, become a pillar of support and create genuine change in his life, become a Shepherds mentor to a NDWH student,” said Reuben. Mark agreed, “It is so satisfying that I played a part in Reuben’s growth. It is amazing that a couple hours a month can have such an enormous impact on a young person.”
Shepherds needs five mentors for the upcoming freshman NDWH class. Join our team of caring mentors to make a positive impact on a Notre Dame man this Fall. To find out more, contact Dan McAuliffe at 203-367-4273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.