Mentors recognized for their work with young adults


Shalea and her mentor, Barbara (Big Brothers Big Sisters), and Shayla Brown and her mentor, Suzanne Garaffa (Wi-mentor) attended the mentor banquet at Testo’s.

The Mentoring Institute of Coastal Fairfield County celebrated the power of mentoring during January, National Mentoring Month, on Jan. 16. The banquet, held at Testo’s Ristorante, thanked and recognized the adults in the region who mentor youth to make their lives better and more stable.

There are currently 13 mentor programs that are part of the Mentoring Institute, a United Way of Coastal Fairfield County initiative in partnership with the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, and approximately 1,500 mentors serving in those programs. In Bridgeport, there are seven mentor programs serving youth, including School Volunteer Association, Champions Mentoring Program, ACE Mentor Program of Greater Bridgeport, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Connecticut, Foster Grandparents, Mentoring for Academic Achievement and College Success and United Way’s Wi-mentor Program.

The program began with a student performance from Neighborhood Studios Conservatory Jazz Ensemble, and the 165 mentors and program representatives in attendance were welcomed by Anne Gribbon, executive director, School Volunteer Association of Bridgeport and chair of The Mentoring Institute of Coastal Fairfield County. The event was emceed by Susan G. Weinberger, president, Mentor Consulting Group, also known as “Dr. Mentor,” and United Way of Coastal Fairfield County board member.

After a few words from Merle Berke-Schlessel, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, and Jill Spineti, president and CEO of the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, the group heard a story from Darrell Allick, founder and CEO of Ice the Beef, who reflected on how a mentor changed and saved his life.

Each year, the attendees hear from a mentor and mentee. This year, a panel of two mentors and their mentees answered questions from Weinberger and talked about how important their relationships are to them both.

The Mentoring Institute, in collaboration with registered mentor programs, coordinates various awareness activities, recruitment activities and opportunities to recognize the dedication and commitment of mentors serving throughout its 12-town service area.

The recognition banquet is held each year in January as part of the National Mentoring Month activities, and close to National Thank Your Mentor Day, an annual day on which young people reach out to thank or honor those individuals who, through their encouragement and guidance, had a lasting impact on their lives. National Mentoring Month is an outreach campaign that draws attention to the need for more mentors to help young people achieve their full potential and highlights the importance of mentoring and its positive impact on a young person’s life.

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