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HKYFS to Begin Pen Pal Program

By Kathy Brown.

(June 13, 2020) — Just as Haddam Killingworth Youth & Family Services was ready to implement a mentoring initiative, school buildings shut down due to COVID-19. Since the implementation of that program has been suspended until we’re back in the school buildings, HKYFS has come up with another program that can be implemented now, while physically distancing.

“Our hope is that the H-K Pen Pal Program will provide a degree of support to children during these challenging weeks,” said Patty Colletti. “It may also serve as an opportunity for the selected child and parent to consider participating in the H-K Mentoring Program later this year.”

When the mentoring program can be safely launched, it will be comprised of volunteers from the community coming into the schools to spend an hour each week with an identified youth.

The National Mentoring Partnership states these reasons for mentoring:

  • “Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter.
  • Youth who meet regulary with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.
  • Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not.
  • Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor.”

The Mentors will serve as positive role models for students who would benefit from having another caring, responsible adult in their lives. “The goal is to provide a child with attention, friendship, and an opportunity to build self esteem as well as to share some fun with an adult who gives the youth a little extra push and motivates them to succeed,” said Patty.

The Governor’s Prevention Partnership awarded a grant to HKYFS which supported a consultant, Dr. Susan Weinstein, President of the Mentor Consulting Group, who has guided the Advocacy Committee in the development of the Mentoring program. HKYFS also received two grants from the Middlesex County Community Foundation and the United Way of Middlesex County that will help to pay for a part time coordinator, as well as part of the screening costs for volunteers interested in becoming Mentors. All Mentors will need to go through an interview and reference check, as well as a criminal background check. The program is going to start with students in Grades 2 and 3 at the two elementary schools in the district. Their teacher or other school professional will recommend students for their program, which will then need to go through parental approval.

Like the Mentoring Program, the H-K Pen Pal Program will match a second or third grade student with an adult. The pair can develop a valuable friendship and the student may enhance his or her writing and reading skills. All adult pen pals will be screened using an interview process. Patty, the H-K Mentoring Program Coordinator, will supervise the program, including matching participants and monitoring the relationships. All communication will be in writing, exchanged through the U.S. postal service. Parents will have the option to either share addresses or have the Coordinator act as the “middleman” so that addresses are not shared. If they go directly to the student’s address, a picture of the adult pen pal’s letter will be sent to the Coordinator before it is sent to the student.

“The goal of the H-K Pen Pal Program is to foster healthy and positive relationships between children and adults while instilling confidence, connections, and optimism,” said Patty.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor or a pen pal, please contact Patty Coletti at HKYFS at or 860-345-7498.

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