By Ellin Smith
Helping children stay focused on positive goals as they navigate the middle and high school years is a challenge for most families. But for those who are living in poverty, helping their children meet the demands of school can be overwhelming. Fortunately, in nearby New Britain, there is a thriving community center providing that much-needed support.
The Pathways/Senderos Center has been making a real difference in the lives of underprivileged children for nearly 25 years by helping children develop positive habits so they stay on track to succeed in school and life. Beginning at age 10, children are welcomed into the program and encouraged to participate through high school. 100% of students who remain with the Pathway program, graduate from high school. Of those graduates, 76% enroll in post-secondary education. Set up to parallel the family support structure, the program provides services designed to prevent teen pregnancy and keep students in school through high school and beyond.
One of Devonwood’s longtime residents has found a special place in her heart for these children. Jackie Lillo first learned about Pathways ten years ago. Just as her nest emptied, she discovered this place and found a new purpose. “Pathways is my happy place. This connection has enhanced my life. My kids are grown and now these kids are my kids.” Jackie volunteers at Pathways several afternoons a week. Her warmth and dedication help her connect with each child in a special way. “Think of all the things you do with your child. Pathways is doing that with these kids.”
Jackie’s husband, Dr. Nicholas Lillo, also feels a personal connection. He has delivered many of these children. His practice is one of the sponsors of a walk-a-thon that has helped raised money for Pathways. The Lillo’s have been touched by the generosity of their Devonwood neighbors and area businesses that have contributed donations and even gifts at the holidays.
Recently, Pathways celebrated this year’s graduation at Green Tea, a local Farmington restaurant. Owner Dennis Chui subsidized the meal and made sure that the kids get a great dinner and that each left with a container full of food. Pathway’s graduates serve as positive role models for current students by going on to attend college or service in the military. To learn more about Pathways, go to www.pathways-senderos.com or call Heather Mills at 860 229 2776.
If you or someone you know is “Making a Difference” in the community, we would like to share your story. It is a great way to let others know the great work that is being done by Devonwood residents and an even better way to help motivate additional volunteers. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in our next edition of Neighborhood Living.