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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Notre Dame of West Haven celebrates 10 years of Shepherds Program, honors Brother James Branigan

Adapted from information supplied by Notre Dame High School:

Notre Dame High School of West Haven will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Shepherds Celebration and honoring Brother James Branigan, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame, with the Founder’s Award.

The event will be held on May 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Thomas E. Golden Jr. Center at the St. Thomas More Chapel & Center at Yale University, 268 Park St., New Haven.

Branigan is being honored for his tireless and selfless commitment to helping those less fortunate, specifically in the New Haven area through his work with Notre Dame and St. Martin de Porres Academy. In addition, Shepherds’ board has created the Brother James Branigan C.S.C. Scholarship Fund, which will assist future disadvantaged young men at Notre Dame.

“I always refer to Shepherds as angels sent for something that I and this community have always wanted, and that is to provide an education to young men that would probably never have the opportunity to set foot in this building," Branigan said. "To see who these young men have become, because of opportunity, is most significant.”

Over the past 10 years, 43 young men have benefited from the Shepherds Program at Notre Dame. Shepherds sponsors and mentors share the high school journey with their students, providing financial support, direction and encouragement as they work one-on-one with students who are “on the brink of success.” Current sponsors/mentors from Greater New Haven include Dr. John Aversa, Dr. James Bednarczyk, Rich Coyle, John Cullen, Greg Dillon, Michael Donahue, Dr. Michael Dusa, Denis Garvey, Michael Griffin, Frank Huisking, Erik Johnson, Kent Kirch, Alioune Kotey, Steven Montano, James McKeown, George McWeeney, John Schmitz, Gary Smart and John Yardley.

An investment in the education and the development of the moral compass of a young person -- especially a disadvantaged inner city youth -- affects not only the individual, but their family and neighborhood. Shepherds reaches out to students, from public and parochial feeder schools, with family incomes close to poverty level, who have a void in their lives. They lack a positive role model. Guidance counselors fear that they will "fall through the cracks" or make poor decisions with lifelong consequences if forced to attend public high school. Statistics show that they are "trapped," destined to follow in their parent's footsteps. Shepherds pairs each student with a mentor who fills this void. At Notre Dame, the majority of the mentors are alumni who devote their time, energy direction and financial support, making a marked impact on these young men’s lives. Students make a difference through community service, committing a minimum 150 service hours at nursing homes, shelters, soup kitchens and kindergarten to fourth-grade Read-Alouds over the past year.

During difficult economic times like these, the student population that we serve and their families are hardest hit. There is an immediate need for financial support and also sponsors and mentors for our programs in New Haven.

Tickets start at $125. For more information, call 203-367-4273, email info@ShepherdsInc.com or visit www.ShepherdsInc.com.

The event is being co-chaired by Sharon and Barney Phillips. In addition to being the founder and a director of Shepherds, Phillips is vice president of the Board of Trustees at St. Thomas More. Committee representatives from the Greater New Haven area include Dr. John and Ellen Aversa, the Rev. Robert Beloin, Jay Bowes, Richard and Arlene Burke, John J. Crawford, Rich and Sherry Coyle, Lisa V. Harkness, George E. McWeeney Jr., Dr. David and Lynn Novicki, Joe Patton, Vincent Pitts, the Most Rev. Peter Rosazza and Anthony and Rose Vigliotti.

In photo: Ashton Johnson, Notre Dame class of 2009, and his sponsor, alumnus Michael Donahue.

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