Norwalk education notes: Mentor clicks with mentee, Manny on TV

Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. – Some education news for you:

  • Barbis becomes a mentor
  • Human Services Council adds to mentor program
  • Former Norwalk Super Manny Rivera on CBS


Barbis, touched by student, signs up

Board of Education Chairman Mike Barbis attended a Monday training session to become a mentor to a Norwalk Public Schools student.

Barbis explained how that came about in an email to NancyOnNorwalk:

“I have always participated in the Read Across America event – this year I did so again and read at two schools that day.

“In one of the classrooms, I met a young student … there was something about this student that clicked … and I asked the teacher if she thought the student would benefit from a mentor.  She enthusiastically answered in the affirmative and that’s how I ended up in the training class … having just driven up from Philadelphia after attending the three-day National School Board Association annual conference.”

Norwalk’s Mentor program is the first school-based mentoring program in the country, according to a Monday recent press release from the Human Services Councils (HSC).  Staffers match “adult mentors to students in the Norwalk Public Schools.  The pair meets for one hour a week, at school, to share fun activities and conversation,” the statement says.


Human Services Council adds staffer to mentor program

HSC has hired Hannah Knox, a Queens, New York native and a long-time Norwalk resident, as program coordinator and support to Program Director Nancy Pratt, the release also said.

“Hannah comes to HSC with ten years of diverse experience in non-profit organizations.  She most recently worked in development and community outreach for the New Canaan Community Foundation. She previously served two terms as an AmeriCorps member, recruiting volunteers and managing a literacy program in a low income elementary school in Dallas, Texas. … After spending several years in New York and Dallas, Hannah and her husband are happy to have finally put down roots in Norwalk. This return home prompted her to want to volunteer locally, which is how she found the opportunity to volunteer with the Norwalk Mentor Program. She mentors a first grader and is honored to be a part of the expansion of a great program that she is passionate about.”

“We are working with the Human Services Council to increase the number of students who are matched with a mentor adding another 100 mentors for students in the upcoming school year,” Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski is quoted as saying. “We would like to see all students thrive and believe that mentoring is a fundamental support to students that need a little extra help and motivation.”

Anthony DiLauro, Executive Director of the Human Services Council, noted that the mentoring approach helps to address chronic absenteeism and problem behaviors.

The Norwalk Mentor Program is one of “five life-changing programs” offered by the Human Services Council, the release states, listing the Children’s Connection, Dr. Robert E. Appleby School-Based Health Centers, Substance Abuse Prevention, and Supportive Housing programs.

“The mentor teaches the student social skills, encourages positive choices, promotes high self-esteem, supports academic achievement and introduces the mentee to new ideas. … The mentor serves as a role model and becomes a special, supportive adult in that young person’s life; sometimes the only stable adult role model for the child,” the release states.



Rivera on television

New London Public Schools’ effort to improve its food offerings has garnered national attention via a CBS Sunday Morning segment that features former Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera.

The story focuses on Chef Dan Giusti’s plan to “fix America’s school lunches” and the results in New London, where Giusti has introduced world cuisines not typically associated with student cafeterias.

“Rivera was the school superintendent who hired Giusti in 2016 to cook for New London’s 3,500 schoolkids,” the reporter states. “Some folks thought he was wasting tax dollars.”

“If we can’t eat it, we shouldn’t serve it to our kids,” Rivera says.

“We had one comment, I think it was, ‘Boy, the next thing you know Rivera will be getting limousines for the students!’” Rivera says in the clip.

The segment also tells of an Top Chef-style competition to determine what new and exotic dishes would be added to the menu, with students helping to judge.

One comment

steve April 5, 2019 at 4:59 pm

kudos to Mike Barbis for his service to the community. I don’t always agree with him, and the NAACP issue was IMHO foolish, gratuitous and hurtful, but he is putting in hours as a BOE member and now helping one on one as a mentor. .

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