From top to bottom: Beverly and her mentor Maria, Mischou with his mentor Carol, and Jon with his mentor Kate!
Starfish Connection makes a long-term commitment to students and their parents – children begin the program in 3rd grade and remain through high school graduation. Accordingly, mentors approach the position with a 10-year commitment in mind.
Mentors are extremely knowledgeable – many are teachers, almost all have raised their own children and/or mentored others in the past.
Children who are selected are already performing at grade level and are hard workers – they understand they have been selected because they have demonstrated academic promise. This alone, starts to guide their mindset, establishing them on the academic path we expect them to continue through middle and high school. These are often the children who fall through the cracks later on in school; our goal is to keep these children on the college track. Our underlying philosophy is that it is easier to keep children on track than to get them on, or back on track.
Starfish Connection includes 3 important components that are whole-child focused and that work synergistically with each other – the 3 “EX’s”– (1) expertise of mentors who, working with the parents, help guide the children on their personal journeys (2) educational trips for exposure to a large variety of cultural, historical and educational background-enhancing events, and (3) self selected extra-curricular activities for personal exploration and multi-dimensional growth.
The organization is structured as a series of interconnected partnerships.
- Starfish/Mentor: Since Starfish meet with their mentors regularly and attend activities together over a number of years, when Starfish reach the more difficult adolescent years, Starfish are comfortable sharing personal feelings with their mentors, and mentors are comfortable giving “straight talk” when needed.
- Mentor/Parent: Mentors meet with parents periodically and, at times, attend the child’s activities along with his/her parent(s). Mentors offer to partner with parents and, when asked, attend meetings at mentees’ schools to provide support and advocacy.
- Mentor/Mentor: Mentors meet as a group every 2-3 months to discuss and improve the program and receive training related to mentoring. Therefore, they get to know one another as acquaintances, if not friends. They also get to know other mentors’ children as we often attend educational trips as a group. Because of this, mentors can rely on each other to “fill in” if they cannot attend an activity themselves.
- Starfish/Starfish: Because the Starfish community participates in educational trips, teen circles and volunteer activities together, children have the opportunity to form a strong and positive college bound peer group prior to their middle school years.
- Starfish Connection/Partner Organizations: Starfish Connection utilizes extracurricular programs provided by organizations with established track records that are already serving Stamford youth. When opportunities exist, we tap into scholarship programs for income eligible families.