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Paying it forward: DSABC annual breakfast celebrates mentors

Annual breakfast honors volunteers, students

Many of the volunteers who mentor for Danbury Schools and Business Collaborative (DSABC) remember having an influential adult who helped them while they were growing up. Being a mentor for DSABC is their way of paying it forward.

This year’s 28th annual DSABC breakfast was a way to thank members for their service. At the breakfast, held May 29 at the Amber Room Colonnade, it was clear that the program not only gives personal satisfaction to the mentors but also offers students support to succeed in ways they never thought possible.

“A young gentleman recently approached me at a luncheon, excited to share that he had a mentor years ago while he was attending Mill Ridge Elementary School. He is now volunteering his time to mentor a Danbury student,” DSABC Director Ellen Meyst told the group of volunteers and students. “This is just one example demonstrating that the time you are spending in a one-on-one relationship with students today can have significant and long-lasting effects well into the future.”

For nearly three decades, the non-profit organization has matched students in the Danbury Public Schools and Henry Abbott Regional Technical School with mentors. Many area employers were represented at the breakfast, including breakfast sponsors Branson Ultrasonics, Cartus, NEA Danbury, Praxair, Savings Bank of Danbury and UTC Aerospace Systems. Sixteen mentors were honored for their longevity in the program from five to 15 years. There are currently 230 DSABC mentors who volunteer to meet students on a weekly basis during the school year.

Seven graduating senior students were awarded scholarships, presented by DSABC Board chair Michael Ferguson and Danbury Superintendent Dr. Sal Pascarella.

“We see the potential in all of our students. We invest in our students because they represent the future,” Ferguson said.

The following Danbury students received scholarships: Alternative Center for Excellence’s Gianni Alessandro and India Lovito; Danbury High School’s Ke’Shown Brown, Leandro Pena, Wendy Rios and Cassandra Turner; and Benjamin Ritchie from Henry Abbott Technical School.

Sanaa Almarayati, who has mentored Ke’Shown for the past 13 years, said Ke’Shown, who will attend Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC) in the fall, recently told her that because of her guidance throughout the years, he learned to make better choices, such as not hanging out with the wrong people.

“It was so rewarding to hear that,” Almarayati said. “Mentors always hope their efforts have changed their lives, but it is the students who change our lives. Thank you Ke’Shown.”

Cassandra, who plans to attend Central Connecticut State University in the fall, has been with her mentor, Deolina Moniz, for five years.

“My mentor impacted my life in a very positive way,” Cassandra said. “She helped me to find ways to handle all the drama in my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be my support system.”

Meyst shared that during the past year, DSABC has explored how to make an even greater impact and connect more volunteers with Danbury students. One way DSABC has been able to expand is through its partnership with the Danbury Early College Opportunity (DECO) program, in which students work toward an Associate Degree from NVCC while attending Danbury High. DSABC has recruited Workplace Learning e-mentors and identified internship positions for students in the program.

DECO Director Dr. Sarah Roy, a speaker at the breakfast, said the program is now in its third year, with many of its first cohort graduating this month. She said some of the students are completing internships at CT Dream Realty, United Way, Ingersoll Auto and Oak Branch. She explained how students learn valuable skills from their mentors and then apply what they learned during their internships.

“It is because of people like you they are able to do this,” Roy said.

“Together, through the passion of our volunteers, the incredible support from our corporate and community partners, the dedication of the Danbury Public School staff as well as the commitment of our Board of Directors, we will continue to build connections that help Danbury Public School students achieve personal and academic success while in school and beyond,” said Meyst.

 

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