Stamford Students Team With UConn To Create Christmas For Families In Need

Newfield Elementary School students pose in front of holiday gifts that will be given to families in need through Stamford’s Neighbors Link program. Jay Polansky

by Jay Polansky

STAMFORD, Conn. — You’re never too young to make a difference.

That was the message from one well-spoken elementary school student in the Stamford Public Education Foundation’s mentoring program at Newfield Elementary School.

Students and mentors from the program presented Neighbors Link with gifts that the organization will give to three families in need.

Neighbors Link program manager Christian Mendoza said the gifts will allow families in need to have a “happier, brighter holiday season.”

He was impressed by the gifts — and decorations — that those in the program had on hand for Tuesday afternoon’s ceremony.

The presentation was a culmination of a 10-week mentoring program in which UConn students teamed with the elementary school students to inspire them to help others in the community.

UConn student Valentina Casanova told the youngsters she enjoyed her time in the program.

“I had an amazing time with you guys,” she said. Casanova said she enjoyed learning about the students’ traditions. Casanova also said she didn’t have the opportunity to participate in a mentoring program when she was in elementary school.

She was one of several UConn students who participated. Each student was enrolled in classes taught by Dr. Miller-Smith.

The university students mentored 170 elementary school students during weekly sessions to teach about civic engagement, community service, and leadership.

Several elementary school students, who were also moved by the program, stood in front of their classmates and shared their takeaways from the experience.

One student said community service not only helps people in need — it also helps you “feel good and make new friends.”

Another student said, “Some people need all the help you can give.” Those who can’t put food on the table particularly need help, she said.

A very well-articulated student said it best: Even though the students were young — some just 10 years old — they’re not too young to make a difference.

Cindy Newman, the foundation’s program manager, agreed.

“Without all of your hard work over the past 10 weeks, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing,” she said.