The Full Story
In 1999 school and community leaders working with children in Guilford gathered to discuss ways to support and encourage students in the crucial transition from childhood to adulthood. Representatives from Youth and Family Services, social workers, guidance staff, administration, and several students from Guilford High School; Board of Education members; the Chief of Police; and volunteers from the Guilford Savings Bank met to explore ways to foster the positive development of children and provide a way for members of the community to reach out to children in the schools.
The result, in the spring of 2000, was Guilford Youth Mentoring, which paired adult volunteers with high school freshmen for one-one-one weekly meetings. Twelve volunteers from the Guilford Savings Bank were the pioneers. The bank, along with the Rotary, Palumbo's Automotive, Stone Insurance, Lenny & Joe's, Bishop's, Agway and Shift Cycling were among the strongest supporters of the program.
By the fall of 2005, GYM was in every school in Guilford. Through the years over 500 volunteers have taken part in the program. GYM has become a statewide model for collaboration, recognized by the Connecticut Mentoring Partnership and the Governor’s Prevention Partnership.
As a school psychologist in the Guilford Schools until early retirement in 1997, Barbara Solomon worked with students, families, and teachers at the secondary level, initially at Adams and Baldwin Middle Schools and then for ten years at Guilford High School. As part of her role in evaluating and making recommendations to address students’ cognitive and emotional needs, she often called upon people in the community to act as informal mentors to students and their families. These adult friendships were often one of the most powerful positive interventions in students’ lives. Thus, it was a natural choice to serve on the Advisory Board convened in early 1999 to study the feasibility of a formal Mentoring Program at Guilford High School. In the fall of 1999, she assumed the role of Coordinator for the pilot program and continued in that role through the expansion of the program into all 7 of the Guilford Schools until her retirement in 2015. Barbara continues to support GYM as a member of our Board and as an active resource in developing our advanced training courses.