Grant Helps Make Guilford’s DAY

With the help of a $625,000 federal grant, Guilford's Developmental Assets for Youth (DAY) is planning to increase its efforts in preventing drug and alcohol use among the community's youth through new programs and group awareness.

"It's going to be a collaborative effort between the town, the school system, and a lot of groups in the community," said Bo Huhn, member of the DAY Executive Board.

DAY is one of 87 new grantees out of more than 450 applicants.

The Drug Free Communities Support Program grant was awarded to the organization in August and is administered by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

DAY was formerly TEAM Guilford, a group of community leaders that was developed to research effective ways of protecting the town's youth from drug and alcohol abuse. Through the Search Institute Developmental Assets program, TEAM Guilford conducted a survey in 2009 on all Guilford public school students from 7th grade through high school, targeting their values, life skills, personal development, and behaviors.

DAY was formed in March to be the action committee that focused on the developmental assets that the consensus felt should be given priority. The students will be surveyed again sometime this year.

"The Guilford Foundation helped us get TEAM Guilford off the ground about five years ago," said Lyne Landry, DAY executive board member and director of Guilford Youth & Family Services. "As we went along, we targeted what we needed to do to help the youth in our community and so it's morphed over the years to DAY."

She said that this grant "is about building a community coalition and to support our youth and reduce risky behavior."

The grant spans over five years ($125,000 per year); the town will have to reapply for the grant on the sixth year.

First Selectman Joseph Mazza said that the grant is not meant to offset the expenses of Youth & Family Services or any other agency in the town.

"We receive $125,000 a year, but we also have to match $125,000," Landry said, stating that the members of DAY will not receive a stipend. "We have to count salaries for people that are putting time into this, all the volunteers in the community, whatever the police may do."

Yuning Zhang and Mike Albergo, both students at Guilford High School, are two youth co-chairs for DAY selected by Principal Rick Misenti and the organization and the duo is working toward helping peers build on these fundamental assets.

"There's many different clubs in Guilford High, so, particularly there, we're trying to focus on talking to different groups of people and having them join our youth sector and act as a liaison to DAY and the school so we can achieve a synergy between the two groups," Zhang said.

The high school contingent is looking into the idea of a Youtube video contest in which different groups of high school students create a video showcasing why they love Guilford or anything along those lines. Other ideas are still in the works.

"These are the kids that are always coming forward and want to be part of this and we're trying to give them some freedom and some support to say, 'Okay, what do you guys want to do?'" Community leader Peter Palumbo said of kids like Zhang and Albergo. "We also are looking to them at the high school level and we're trying to work on the 7th- and 8th-grade level to get some of the kids with not the higher assets to try to bring them in to help them feel more valued."

The DAY executive board is also looking into programs that can be held on early dismissal days and a Teen Self Esteem group that will be held at Baldwin Middle School.

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