Since 2002, January has been recognized across the nation as National Mentoring Month, a campaign to raise awareness of mentoring in its various forms and recruit individuals to mentor.

For nearly 40 years, Family & Children's Agency has offered community-based mentoring through its youth development department.

The two divisions of the agency's mentoring program are Project Friendship, which provides children with adult mentors, and Jr. Project Friendship, which provides children with high school mentors.

Children in the mentoring program are between the ages of 6 and14 in the Greater Norwalk region.

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The agency's staff carefully matches each mentor, or "Big Friend," with their mentee, "Little Friend," and monitors the relationship on an ongoing basis. The match meets weekly and enjoys activities throughout the community.

In September, the Six Pillars of Character was introduced as an educational component to the mentoring program.

For details, call 203-523-5784 or email

Each month, mentors are asked to focus on lessons that will teach and reinforce ethical principals in the children with whom they work. The Six Pillars of Character, which includes caring, citizenship, respect, fairness, responsibility and trustworthiness, will provide the mentees with the foundation to become productive, independent, and contributing members of their communities.

"I have been fortunate to see the direct impact mentoring can have on a child's life," said Jennifer Barahona, director of youth development at Family & Children's Agency. "I will never forget the expression on the face of one little girl who had been to her first live theater experience with her Big Friend. It was something that she may never have been exposed to if not for her wonderful, caring mentor. We know the proven long-term benefits of mentoring include improved self-esteem and school performance, greater expectations for one's future, and reduced incidents of crime, premature parenting and substance abuse, but to witness some of the more immediate, life changing moments is truly incredible. "

The agency's staff not only supports the mentors with ongoing communication and suggested activities, but the mentee and their family with regular home-visits. In many cases, the agency's staff refers the mentee or family members to other necessary services provided by Family & Children's Agency.

"The families feel truly supported as if they're part of something bigger," said Anne Schneider, coordinator of mentoring at Family & Children's Agency.

The youth development programs at Family & Children's Agency support children and teens throughout the Greater Norwalk area through after-school and mentoring services. Youth are encouraged to explore and build upon their strengths, develop and clarify values, and improve their social and emotional skills in order for healthy, successfully development. Family & Children's Agency believes that the investment of time, energy, and resources into the positive development of young people will have enormous benefits for them now and in the future.

For information, 203-523-5784 or email