N E W S L E T T E R   S pring 2019

Director's Message
Dear Friends of DSABC,

As Spring brings longer days and warmer temperatures, we are grateful for all 
the DSABC mentors who continue to connect with Danbury Public School students. Recruitment efforts have been robust this school year - we have welcomed sixty new mentors due to the amazing work of our business liaisons as well as every mentor out there who is willing to share their story and encourage others to make a difference through mentoring.   We are continually seeking mentors to volunteer for our Spotlight Series as your stories bring to life the work we do. Special thanks to Karen Ledan, our City of Danbury liaison, who recruited eight more Danbury Police Officers and is targeting additional City of Danbury departments. There are countless students who can benefit from a positive adult role model so please continue to tell your compelling stories!
We have been fortunate to host opportunities to bring mentors and DSABC supporters together to make personal connections and appreciate the tremendous turnout at the National Mentoring Month Luncheon as well as our Wine Tasting Fundraiser. In addition to our One-on-One Mentoring matches, DSABC continually strives to make meaningful connections that benefit Danbury Public School students. We recently introduced a group of Boehringer Ingelheim employees to sixteen kind first graders at Park Avenue School. We facilitated a scholarship program joining the generous Praxair Legal Department with some hard-working students at Danbury High School. We linked several local small businesses and agencies with DECO students pursuing internships. We hope to further collaborate with area businesses and community organizations so that together, we can strengthen our impact.
As a reminder, the Annual Scholarship & Awards Breakfast will be held on Thursday, May 16th.   We look forward to celebrating our scholarship recipients and mentors making a difference with all of you.  Wishing the Danbury Public School staff and students a wonderful Spring Break!

Kind regards,
Ellen Meyst
DSABC Executive Director
Register to Attend 
the 2019
Annual Scholarship & Awards Breakfast

Please join us in celebrating our DSABC Scholarship Recipients 
and Mentors Making a Difference.
  WHEN: Thursday, May 16, 2019    7:45 - 9:00 a.m.
WHERE:  Amber Room Colonnade  - 1 Stacey Road,  Danbury, CT 

Save the Date  -   Thursday, June 27, 2019

DPS Golf Outing
Richter Park Golf Course
Danbury, CT
4 Person Scramble

All proceeds will be generously donated to DSABC!
$150 A PERSON - Cash or Checks Payable to Danbury Public Schools
Golf goodie bag - Greens fees and golf cart - Lunch and dinner

If you are interested in playing and/or donating please contact: 
Brian Betesh - betesb@danbury.k12.ct.us
Mark Ottusch - ottusm@danbury.k12.ct.us 

DSABC Supporters Gather 
for An Evening of Wine Tasting
DSABC hosted our second annual Evening of Wine, Beer and Food Tasting fundraiser on March 22nd  at Stew Leonard's Wines & Spirits.  Over 120 attendees enjoyed tasting a wide selection of wine while mingling with friends, mentors and DSABC supporters.  At the end of the  night, raffle winners of some incredible baskets were announced.  All proceeds benefit the DSABC mentoring and scholarship programs.   

Thank you to our

Event Sponsor:
Stew Leonard's Wine & Spirits

 Raffle Donors:
Sarah Bollert & Charter Oak Brewery
Black Angus Grill
Cheesecake Factory
Judy Coco & the Family Learning Center
Cary Conroy
Maureen Decker
Mary Ann & Michael Ferguson
Ralph & Diane Mancini
Ellen Meyst
Bob Port
Farley Santos
Jen Tomaino

Food Sponsors:
Agave Mexican Restaurant
Caraluzzi's Markets
Gisella's Ristorante
Sinapi's Pizza
Stew Leonard's
Sucre Sale
The Ice Cream Guy

More photos from the 2019 Wine Tasting
are posted on our   Facebook Page. 

DSABC Celebrates National Mentoring Month

DSABC luncheon highlights anxiety awareness

By Robin Provey

Today's students are increasingly exposed to new realities from 24/7 technology to lockdown drills and conflicts over immigration. One result of these mounting pressures is a rise in childhood anxiety rates. But how do adults know when a child's anxiety is more than just a response to everyday stress and may need to be addressed by a team of experts.

At the annual Danbury Schools and Business Collaborative (DSABC) annual mentor luncheon held Jan. 23 at Danbury High School, mentors learned how to be aware of the signs of a student suffering with anxiety and how to alert appropriate experts. For one hour a week during the school year, hundreds of mentors volunteer with DSABC to support students who need an adult in their lives. While mentors aren't charged with disciplining students or tutoring them, they can be one of the first people to notice when a child is struggling.

Keynote speaker Dr. Mary Murphy of Insight Counseling in Ridgefield focused her talk on recognizing varying degrees of anxiety in students. Murphy said that anxiety is the most common emotional issue for children, citing statistics that 31.9 percent of children ages 13-18 are diagnosed every year with anxiety.

"And because of school shootings, we have a whole new reality . . . they have to be in an emergency preparedness mode," said Murphy, adding that, combined with other traumatic experiences, possible abuse or neglect included, these experiences can have a tremendous impact on a young person.

Elisa Pica, who is retired from Cartus Corporation in Danbury, has been a DSABC mentor for seven years with the same student. She found the presentation to be very helpful in recognizing the 
different stages of anxiety. In addition to differentiating between what can be considered general anxiety linked to a situation or clinical anxiety disorder, which can include obsessive-compulsive order and phobias, Murphy shared with mentors how to look for signs that students need help.

"I have known my student since she was in first grade. I tell her we are growing up together," Pica said. "At every visit with her, I often look for changes, so Dr. Murphy's presentation was very helpful and I learned more details about anxiety."

Although most people, including children, experience some day-to-day anxiety that focuses on a specific situation, they can quickly move on after an event, such as an upcoming test. It's when the worries don't go away, if they interfere with functioning at school or at home, or if they result in physical symptoms or lead to avoidance behaviors like substance use or isolation, that the child may need some intervention.

"Anxiety is a great masquerader," said Murphy, adding that often children with anxiety are diagnosed with other mental health conditions, making it difficult to determine the underlying cause. Special needs students also need different intervention strategies.

Mentors can be an invaluable resource for students because of the level of communication they develop with the student and can look for "red flags," such as eye contact change, complaints of stomachaches or headaches, excessive video gaming or regression into former stages. A student may also appeared under- or over-stimulated.

While some anxiety is normal and a part of life, too much is not, Murphy said, and a mentor's demeanor can make an enormous difference for the student.

"When we stay calm, we are modeling that behavior for them," Murphy said. "Your presence is an intervention."

"Sometimes you need to just sit. Literally, that's your intervention," she said. "Kids are very good at feeling the emotions of the people around them. We can use that. Kids who are anxious are looking for someone who is calm and telling them everything's going to be ok."

Gary Bruce, Deputy Fire Marshal in Danbury and a mentor at Rogers Park Middle School since 2017, has long recognized the pressures that middle school students face.

"The presentation by Dr. Murphy was very helpful in identifying the differences between stress and anxiety," Bruce said. "Her simple methods encourage open lines of communication. I enjoy being a mentor and supporting the students on their journey of life." 
Thanks to our Donors
Eversource Energy Foundation
Savings Bank of Danbury Foundation
Student Transportation of America
Wells Fargo Foundation
Chrissy Carboni
Ed Dayton
Rick Eadie
Carole Eldridge
Dayo Hanidu
Dan Jowdy
Larry Post
Eric Tate

Random Acts of Kindness
Valuable lessons and bike surprise for adults and students

When approximately 66 employees from Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) gathered together for a day of teambuilding, they had no idea what the outcome would be. BI teamed up with L.E.A.D. USA, a national team-building organization based here in CT, to use bike building as a teambuilding exercise for their employees as well as promote service to the community. The BI employees spent the morning working in small teams to assemble a child's bicycle from a box of parts. Without written instructions, they had only each other and an incomplete tool box with which to achieve their objective.
Unbeknownst to the group from BI, five first grade classes at Park Avenue elementary school recently participated in a Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) program, an initiative created by L.E.A.D. USA, and delivered as part of their Bike Building Program. For two weeks, 110 first-graders journaled about the nice things they did and how it made them and others feel. Throughout the process, it was never disclosed to the students that they may receive a bike or reward of any form through their participation in RAK. The objective is to teach and inspire RAK because "it's the right thing to do" as a member of a community not because there is something in it for them. 

First-grader, Katie shared, "I helped my teacher pass things out to the class. She felt happy and I felt good."

"I saw Xander's writing folder on the ground. I got it and gave it to him. He was happy. I was happy," wrote Phillip.

Tatiana journaled, "I gave my mom her purse. She said thank you and I said you're welcome. She hugged me and I felt happy that I helped my mom before I went to school."

Upon completion of the RAK journals, teachers at Park Avenue school reviewed them and selected 16 students that not only reflected the philosophy of everyday kindness the most, but also display kindness all year long. The students were told they were going on a special field trip.

Richard Kuepper, president of L.E.A.D. USA, ran the bike build with his support staff, Sheila Giampa. After the BI group spent the morning learning that collaboration leads to success while assembling 16 bicycles, the first graders entered the room and surprised the adults during an exercise that Kuepper led about 'knowing your customer.' In order to get their input, Kuepper asked the students, "What do you do to be a good team member?" They gave a variety of responses including, be kind to your team, be nice to your friends and help each other. 

David Krafick, principal of Park Avenue School, explained to the BI team that students at the school celebrate kindness and power manners all year long so this program ties into what they continually practice. 

"In first grade, students are learning fundamental skills and it is important to promote kindness, particularly at that age," Krafick said.

Kuepper asked the children what they thought they should do with the newly assembled bicycles. Their ideas included selling them or giving the bikes to kids in need. When the students were told that they were going to be the recipients of the new bicycles, they gasped in astonishment, clapped and excitedly jumped up and down. They were also surprised with a safety helmet and lock to which the first graders used their power manners to respond with a resounding "Thank You" to the adults.

Another key component of the program  includes educating the new bike owners on important safety information. Sargent Antonelli along with Officers Zalenski, Cameron and Morrill from the Danbury Police Department were on hand to properly fit the helmets and review bike safety tips with the students. 

Antonelli also reminded the students, "You are here because you are kind, but you will be rewarded for your kindness your whole life."
After a group photo and the children had left the meeting room, Kuepper led the BI participants through a thorough debrief on the team building experience, tying the lessons learned back to the real world of business and the importance of keeping their 'customers' preeminent throughout their planning, execution and interactions. 

"Understanding your customer challenges you to produce the safest and highest quality product possible" says Jimmy Person, BI Pilot Plant Technician. "This event was one of the best days of my 29 year career at Boehringer. "We knew we were making bikes but not for whom. It was very touching to see the excitement and joy from the kids and I felt honored to be able to contribute in a positive and meaningful manner." 
National Mentoring Month Art Contest

In celebration of National Mentoring Month, DSABC invited mentees to enter our first ever Art Contest!  Students in elementary school (K-5) were encouraged to draw a picture illustrating their favorite thing to do with their mentor.    School liaisons and mentors helped guide the students through the process and support their creative talents.  The Cartus Mentoring Team generously sponsored the contest and funded prizes to award to the gifted winners.  

The mentors were incredibly proud of the student's achievements - congratulations to all of the winners!

Gabriella - Gr. 1 - Mill Ridge Primary
Jhordan - Gr. 2 - King Street Primary
Gabe - Gr. 2 - Morris Street
Emily - Gr. 4 - Great Plain
Ethan - Gr. 5 - South Street

Pictured (l to r): Mentors Cary Conroy, Sarita McCrea, Joyce Deboben and Jim Moretti with their mentees and award-winning artwork
Thank You 
Praxair, Inc.! 
The Praxair Legal and Real Estate Departments creatively raised funds that they generously donated to DSABC to provide scholarships to students at Danbury High School.  Students participating in both the One-on-One Mentoring Program and Workplace Learning e-Mentoring Program were invited to apply.  Recipients used their scholarships to help pay for classes at NVCC, text books for their college-level courses and technology.  

Thank you Praxair, Inc. for supporting the future success of DHS students!   
Mentor Spotlight
My best days' are with DSABC mentor
Calm, encouraging mentor helps student succeed 
By Robin Provey

As mentor for Danbury Schools and Business Collaborative (DSABC), Oscar Rodriguez looks back on his childhood, he seems to have but one regret: that he didn't have a mentor.

Rodriguez, who works in Human Resources at Boehringer Ingelheim, said he remembers the days when mentors were allowed to bring in fast food hamburgers and soda for their students. He also remembers how happy and excited the students were to have a mentor

"I wonder how my life would have been different, or better, if I had a mentor," Rodriguez said.

Despite not having a mentor himself, Rodriguez said when the opportunity to become a mentor presented itself through his workplace, he thought about the difference being a mentor can make for a student.

"Even though I didn't have the experience of being mentored, I said - let me make myself available. These kids are our future, and I want to help them," Rodriguez, a 2007 graduate of Danbury High School, said. "It's a good feeling to have someone to talk to you can trust."

Two and a half years ago, Rodriguez became a mentor to Andrew Lima, now a sixth-grader at Rogers Park Middle School.

Andrew was very shy when he first met Rodriguez. He found school and homework stressful and he didn't seem to want a mentor at first. Rodriguez said he stayed relaxed and just found games to play and kept it light.

"I asked him questions, but there wasn't a lot of conversation," Rodriguez said. But since the two having been meeting at school once a week for about 40 minutes over the past several years, Andrew is a different kid. He is no longer shy and anxious, and he uses the word "brave" to describe himself.
"We developed a relationship, a friendship where we can trust each other and it built from there," Rodriguez said.

Andrew's first impression of Oscar is that his mentor was calm and he felt no pressure to just be with him.

"My best days are my days with Oscar," Andrew said. "I don't have to worry about homework, I can have fun and I calm down. I've become more open-minded and brave. Having a mentor can help me be successful. It's somebody to give advice and encouragement not to give up."

Rodriguez said that Andrew is very conscientious when it comes to schoolwork, so he focuses their meetings on activities that reduce Andrew's anxiety about school.

"Andrew is very accountable. He's bright and he has a bright future. He's more outgoing now and has friends. He's very confident and has grown as if he were a butterfly," said Rodriguez. "You just have to put time and effort and the more time you spend, the closer you get. Once Andrew knows the capabilities he has, the possibilities are endless. He just needs to know it - and some kids don't have that."

Rodriguez said that mentoring experience has also helped him. He said he looks forward to taking time out of his week to help Andrew and give him encouragement.

"I look forward to taking this time and I notice a difference for myself," Rodriguez said. 
Welcome New Mentors
One-on-One Mentoring Program

Melissa Baker - Branson
Jonhnattan Caicedo - Boehringer Ingelheim
Christina Calabro - WeCAHR
Laurel Carey  - Independent
Matthew Casazza - Danbury Police Department
Caroline Chanin - Independent
Jonathan Contreras Danbury Police Department
Christopher Dennis - Danbury Police Department
Vito Iacobellis  - Danbury Police Department
Mike Iaquinto  - Danbury Police Department
Leonard LeBonia  - Danbury Police Department
Olivia Negron - Boehringer Ingelheim
Keven Nelson - Independent
Alyssa Ortiz - Branson
Caryn Swenson - Dream House Realty
James Warren  - Hologic
Travis Webber  - Danbury Police Department
Andrew Whitlock - Danbury Police Department

DSABC continues to seek mentors for Danbury Public School students.  If you or someone you know is interested in mentoring, please click here to complete the application.   
Throwback to 2000

Cendant Christmas Party
So thankful that some of these folks are STILL mentoring!
Calendar Watch

15 - 18: Spring Recess - Schools Closed
19: Good Friday - Schools Closed
23: One Hour Early Release

10: Professional Development - Schools Closed  
14: One Hour Early Release 
16: Annual DSABC Awards & Scholarship Breakfast 
21: One Hour Early Release  
24: Professional Development - Early Dismissal 
28: Memorial Day - Schools Closed 

June 19: DHS and HATS High School Graduation 
June 19:  Tentative  School Closing - Early Dismissal 
We want to hear from YOU!
In order to make our newsletter as relevant and interesting as possible, we need YOUR input for future publications.   Share your mentoring stories, tell us why you became a mentor or let us know how your company supports mentoring. 
Email contributions to  meyste@danbury.k12.ct.us.

The Mission of DSABC is to Help Danbury Public School Students Achieve Personal and Academic Success.

Our Tool: School Based Mentoring

DSABC is a 501 (c) 3 Charitable Organization. Please consider supporting our mentoring and scholarship programs .