Submitted by Ray Galloway, HK Mentoring Program
(August 31, 2022) — Youth and Family Services of Haddam-Killingworth Executive Director Tyree Hughey, Regional School District 17 and HK Mentor Program developers Ray Galloway and Patty Coletti would like the residents of Haddam and Killingworth to have an increased awareness of a recent initiative, namely, the HK Mentoring Program. The HK Mentoring Program is a partnership between RSD 17 and HKYFS. The primary goal of the program is to match a trusted, caring adult with a student from the HK community who could benefit from having a relationship with a responsible adult. Mentees may be nominated for the program by a teacher, school staff member, or parent. Mentees and mentors meet weekly at school during the school year. Adult mentors will provide student mentees with attention and friendship. Mentors will also provide opportunities to engage mentees in fun activities that build confidence, optimism and positive relationships with others.
In collaboration with the HKYFS Executive Director, two volunteers from our communities with an interest in renewing an earlier mentoring program, Ray Galloway, who is now Chairperson of the HK Mentor Program Advisory Council, and Patty Coletti, who is now HK Mentor Program Coordinator, began developing the current program in 2019. It began as a pilot program, with nominees coming from the second and third grades in RSD 17 schools. Currently, students from grades 2 to 6 have participated; eventually, we enthusiastically look forward to including students from all grade levels. Ray and Patty have collaborated with HKYFS staff and have had the privilege of having as their mentor and trainer, the founder of the very first mentoring program in Connecticut, Dr. Susan Weinberger of Norwalk. The current program was ready to launch and train new mentors in March 2020; however, Covid 19 necessitated a change to those plans. Accordingly, Patty and Ray shifted gears as a direct result of COVID restrictions and, as an alternative to in-person/in-school meetings, arranged for mentees and mentors to communicate as pen pals and later to meet virtually. After several months, a few mentors and mentees had the opportunity to meet in-person, as long as either the parents or another responsible adult was nearby.
As of February 2022, and as a result of RSD 17 relaxing its COVID restrictions, our current mentors and mentees began meeting in-person and in schools. This was a very important and exciting stage of the program’s development! In March 2022, three new mentor/mentee pairs were matched and also began meeting in schools weekly. This past school year there were 8 mentee/mentor matches meeting among Killingworth Elementary School, Burr Elementary School, H-K Intermediate School and H-K Middle School. Ray and Patty have both had mentees, starting as pen pals and have continued their friendships, now meeting in person during the school year. Ray and Patty highly recommend becoming a mentor. It is a very rewarding and beneficial experience for both mentors and mentees. We anticipate having 3 new applicants ready to be matched soon; they all seem eager to start! We hope to match each of them with a mentee this fall.
We are always looking to nominate new mentees and to recruit new mentors as well. Mentees are most often nominated by a teacher or school staff member. Typically, a member of the school staff contacts parents to share the idea of nominating their child for the program prior to proceeding. If the parents wish for their child to participate in the HK Mentoring Program, they are asked to sign a permission form. Students are nominated for a variety of reasons, yet the common thought for each student is that he or she would benefit from having another caring, attentive, adult friend. Ray and Patty conduct periodic informational sessions for those interested in learning more about the program. Prospective mentors must complete an application, must provide references, agree to a criminal background check screening, and attend a two-hour New Mentor Training Program before being matched with a student mentee. Once a mentor begins meeting with their mentee, mentors are asked to participate in on-going training. In addition, mentors are monitored by the Program Coordinator and School Liaison throughout the school year.
HKYFS and the HK Mentoring Program would like to extend much gratitude to The Middlesex County Community Foundation and the Killingworth Community Foundation for providing a generous grant. The grant ensured continued development of the program and helped us to eventually reach an intended and very important goal, namely for mentors and mentees to meet in-person at the student’s school each week. We would also like to thank our wonderful mentor volunteers, parents and mentees, as well as the RSD 17 Board of Education and staff members, inclusive of Superintendent Jeff Wihbey, teachers, principals and support staff, HKYFS Board of Directors and staff, for supporting the program.