A self described "troubled teen," Windsor resident Terese Newman grew up in Los Angeles. Although she was an honors student, Newman was facing some personally difficult times, and she was close to making a decision that would set her back for ever.
"I was upset, and, like teens tend to do, I rebelled in a way that affected my family life and school life," she said. "I was on the edge of making a bad decision: dropping out of school," said Newman.
In retrospect, Newman says that her difficulties were certainly manageable, but to a teenager, they seemed impossible to overcome. However, things took a turn when one of her teachers reached out to her in a small, but significant way.
"My journalism teacher, David Farley, sent a small card to me, which I received in a manila interoffice-type envelope," she recalled. "On that card he drew a smiley face.
"I know this doesn't sound like much, but the impact affects me even today. Somebody cared," she explained.
"I hadn't really connected with that teacher before, but knowing he cared made a difference in my life. I still have that little hand-drawn smiley face card. That happened about 35 years ago."
It was this experience that motivated her to volunteer for the mentoring program in Windsor. With two teenage daughters of her own, and her high-pressure advertising job ended, she finally had the time to devote herself to helping someone else the way "Mr. Farley" helped her over three decades ago.
"I had left my job a couple of years ago," she said. "I realized I really wanted to do something that was going to give back to the community."
Newman had always volunteered in her own daughters' classrooms throughout the years, and saw that, in general, teachers needed help.
After researching a few community service organizations in town, she decided her skills best fit the mentoring program and she began mentoring Leslie, a 5th grader at Clover Street School, last year.
"I wanted to make some kind of connection," she said. "I am always telling my daughter: "do something about the things you don't like, don't just talk [about it]."
Mentoring has been an eye-opening experience for Newman.
"I've seen an elementary child in relation to his peers and teachers," she said.
When she meets with her student, they play games, eat lunch and sometimes draw. Leslie is an organized and polite boy who has a natural drawing talent.
"I like to draw anything," he said, and his favorite subject is science. "It's just fun," he added, explaining, with a smile, that he finds the possbility of chemistry's explosions intriguing.
"He's a really good reader," said Newman about her mentee.
She feels this program offers the students involved "another level of support."
Some need it more than others, and while she feels Leslie has a good support system around him, she enjoys spending time with him and connecting her own graphic arts experience to his interest in drawing.
"He gets plenty of love and support, this is just additional support which gives them an additional amount of stability," she said.
Those are interested in mentoring, register for the mentor training session on Tues., Feb. 7, or to learn more about mentoring opportunities in the Windsor Public Schools system, contact Mike Greenwood at 860-687-2000, ext. 266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.