March, 2018

The Art of the Interview

Posted in Mentoring on March 26th, 2018 with No Comments

Stand & Deliver Students Tackle Resume and Interview Skill Building…

“To land that dream job, you need to interview well,” stresses Family Services’ Stand & Deliver Coordinator Gina St. Jean.  She is wrapping up a presentation focused on resume building and the all important art of interviewing.  Her audience consists of high school students gathered around four long tables after school on a Wednesday afternoon.  The group represents a portion of the Stand & Deliver participants who meet weekly at Schneider Electric in Andover, Massachusetts.  The students typically use the hours on task navigating homework assignments or college applications, but on this occasion they are diving into other skills essential to their success as they move beyond their high school years.

“Most of the kids in attendance for the workshop are high school seniors.  A few months ago we surveyed them as to which topics they wanted to tackle,” shared Ms. St. Jean’s Stand & Deliver colleague, Katie Buttner.  “Resume writing and interview skill building was at the top of their list.”  So, she enlisted the services of Family Services’ Human Resources Director, Karen Manzi, to share her day to day experiences on the front lines fielding resumes and interacting with employment candidates.  Together the team of three unpacked their teachings by staging two diverging mock interviews.  Through that role play, the kids witnessed firsthand the power of eye contact, good posture and preparedness.  On the flip side, the group was schooled in behaviors to avoid when given the precious attention of a potential employer… such as taking a cell phone call, or not shaking hands, or coming up empty when given the opportunity to ask questions.

“The way society is becoming more casual today, emphasizing formal interviewing skills is really important,” shared Manzi.  “This information will serve them well.”   The afternoon wrapped up with a question and answer session, and of course allowed a window of leftover time to tend to that all important homework!  Of his involvement in the Stand & Deliver program Javier (a Lawrence High School senior and aspiring civil engineer, pictured above) reflected, “I’ve been in Stand & Deliver for three years.  During that time I have had two different mentors.  Be it schoolwork related or current affairs, I just really enjoy the conversations here.  I feel like coming here each week and being able to get into the mind of someone else gives me a real head start.”

Family Services’ Stand & Deliver is an academic mentoring program that matches Lawrence Public School and Greater Lawrence Technical School students with volunteers from New Balance, Pfizer, Raytheon, Charles River Labs and Schneider Electric.  Each week the students are transported to the partner company for 60 – 90 minute sessions. On site, the matches work on homework, MCAS prep, AP coursework, high school/college readiness, as well as building strong relationships with one other.  If you would like to learn more about our Stand & Deliver program or other opportunities for supporting Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, please visit…



A Good Example!

Posted in Mentoring on March 19th, 2018 with No Comments

Benjamin Franklin once said that the best thing to give to an enemy is “forgiveness”; to an opponent, “tolerance”; to a friend, “your heart”, and to a child, a “good example”.  The mentoring programs we offer at Family Services of the Merrimack Valley are guided by a deep conviction that every child needs that someone to listen and take an interest in their well being – someone who they might model as their own life unfolds.  We recently reconnected with Mariangely Martinez (pictured at left) a longtime participant in our Stand & Deliver program and one such illustration of our precept in action.  Mariangely became involved with Stand & Deliver in fifth grade and remained a mentee in the program through her freshman year in high school.  She has big dreams and every intention of capturing them.  Currently a full-time student at Rivier College in Nashua, New Hampshire, we caught up with Mariangely over her spring break.

Can you tell us about your mentor and your Stand & Deliver experience… With which corporation were you matched?
I attended Pfizer which I love and am still fond of.  I am a proud mentee, and I LOVE telling people that I used to go to Pfizer for tutoring sessions. My experience was awesome.  I enjoyed every bit of the program – from the bus ride there, until it was time for us to go back home. My mentor was named Kim.  She too was awesome and the best mentor. She genuinely cared about me and my work and making sure that I succeeded in school. Having someone that wasn’t family care about me and my studies meant a lot and opened my eyes to know that it is important for me to finish school.

At the time, why was this mentoring program of interest to you?  Did you and your mentor have any goals in place when you were matched?
Stand & Deliver was of  interest to me because it was a way for me to have something to do after school and an actual motive to make sure my homework was complete. I enjoyed being with my friends and knowing that there were other students like me also in the program so they didn’t have to go home and be stuck there waiting for parents to get home from work. When I met my mentor it was about six or so years ago, and from the start we both wanted for me to succeed in life and in school.

What were some of your takeaways from the program when the match was over?
That there are great people in this world. Knowing that someone took time out of their work day for me meant the world. It’s okay to ask for help no matter who or where you are. There is always help if you seek for it.

Future goals?
Right now I balance my full-time studies by working part time. My future goals are to graduate from graduate school, go on to medical school and become a Forensics Pathologist.

And, if you could offer one piece of advice to that student who is just being matched or maybe applying to participate in the program, what would that be?
Do it!  It will benefit you in the long run whether it’s applying to high school or applying to college. And you never know…  you can make great connections for future job or internship opportunity.

Finish the following sentence?
Mentors are… AWESOME.

Family Services’ Stand & Deliver is an academic mentoring program that matches Lawrence Public School and Greater Lawrence Technical School students with volunteers from New Balance, Pfizer, Raytheon, Charles River Labs and Schneider Electric.  Each week the students are transported to the partner company for 60 – 90 minute sessions. On site, the matches work on homework, MCAS prep, AP coursework, high school/college readiness, as well as building strong relationships with one other.  If you would like to learn more about our Stand & Deliver program or other opportunities for supporting Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, please visit…


A Fresh Perspective on Father Engagement in Education… Join us for Breakfast with Dads

Posted in Fatherhood on March 15th, 2018 with No Comments
Family Services of the Merrimack Valley is pleased to welcome John Baldalament, Director of Programs for the Fatherhood Project at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), as the keynote speaker at our next Fathers and Family Network meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 5, 2018, from 10:00-12:00 PM at our offices on 430 Canal Street in Lawrence.  In addition to his work with the Fatherhood Project, Baldalament is the author of the acclaimed Modern Dad’s Dilemma: How to Stay Connected with Your Kids in a Rapidly Changing World (New World Library, 2010) and the director of the PBS documentary All Men Are Sons: Exploring the Legacy of Fatherhood. His work has been featured on ABC News, National Public Radio and in Men’s Health, The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times,, and Independent School.  In 2012, John was invited to the White House for the Champions of Change Father’s Daymeeting with other national leaders. In 2012, John was invited to The White House again for the administration’s first-ever Dialogue On Men’s Health.

The work with schools which Baldalament directs at MGH’s Fatherhood Project focuses on:

  1. Strengthening the essential emotional connection between fathers and their children in the early years by offering the opportunity to have fun together while learning and practicing lifelong relationship skills.
  2. Educating the parent community about the positive impact fathers have on child outcomes when they are actively involved in children’s lives at home and school.
  3. Empowering school and parent leaders to create a more father-inclusive school environment.

“Findings from the rapidly growing science of early childhood and brain development show that a father’s active participation and emotional engagement with his children leads to improved social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes,” shares Baldalament on the Fatherhood Project’s website.  “The research confirms that a father’s emotional engagement — not the amount of time fathers spend with children, rather how they interact with them — leads to multiple positive outcomes, and serves as a significant protective factor against high risk behaviors in both girls and boys. This holds true for resident and nonresident fathers alike.”  He adds, “At The Fatherhood Project, we believe that educators working with families in schools have an unprecedented opportunity to utilize these important findings and dispel the myth that fathers are somehow unimportant or unnecessary to raising healthy children.”

Over the last two decades, Mr. Baldalament has spoken and consulted internationally in schools, government agencies, and nonprofit and private-sector organizations. And, for the last three years, he has been recognized in the New York Times by for his commitment to ending violence against girls and women.  We are delighted to host him here at our offices later this month!  Family Services’ Fathers and Family network, an ongoing series, offers area providers an important platform for both professional collaboration and the exchange of information.  Participants are encouraged to please bring along program materials to share with others in attendance.  To reserve your space in this program, please email Betsy Green at:

Above image courtesy of Manifezt Foundation.

YOU Are That Someone Who Matters

Posted in Mentoring on March 14th, 2018 with No Comments

Success Mentors Program Kicks Off at Lawrence High School…

It began with a drumroll…  Make that a Drumline, compliments of the spirited  Lawrence High School corps of percussion.  Their fanfare kicked off the launch of Family Services brand new Success Mentors program.  “Tonight begins what we hope is an important momentum in each of your lives,” said Lawrence High School’s Ninth Grade Co-Principal Elijah Heckstll (pictured with the school’s Dean of Family & Community Jasmitila Duran) as he welcomed the fifty students sitting down to meet their new mentors.  Last fall the Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, under the U.S. Department of Justice, awarded Family Services of Merrimack Valley a one million dollar grant to implement (and lead) the “Massachusetts (MA) Success Mentors Collaborative”, a student mentoring initiative in the cities of Lawrence, Holyoke and Springfield, MA.

“It’s been a monumental task to get this new program off of the ground, and much credit goes out to our Family Services mentoring staff for doing so,” commented Family Services’ Chief Executive Officer Liz Sweeney.  The program, which will be executed over two years, specifically targets young people identified as being at risk for dropping out of school.  The program matches students with teachers, administrators, and other individuals within the high school who will advise the students, providing guidance, motivation and accountability for attending school and staying on track with academic demands.  The mentors also serve as “connectors,” helping to flag challenges causing absenteeism and connecting mentees to appropriate school personnel that would otherwise remain untapped.

“What you may or may not know is that ninth grade is literally one of THE most important year’s in a student’s career from the time they begin kindergarten to the moment they graduate high school,” shared Mr. Heckstll as the program’s kick-off continued.  “If you look at data, how a student performs in ninth grade is a really big predictor of their success in completing high school.”  The Success Mentors program at Lawrence High School will be administered (in conjunction with Family Services ) by Heckstll and his colleague Ms. Duran, an alumna of the high school herself.

The Massachusetts (MA) Success Mentors Collaborative is a partnership among three youth mentoring programs in Massachusetts that each serve the three poorest cities in Massachusetts led by Family Services, with the Holyoke Boys & Girls Clubs and Springfield School Volunteers.  The MA Success Mentors Collaborative will adopt the practices of the evidence-based “Success Mentors” model, launched by the Obama Administration in 2010, to enhance recruitment, training, and monitoring and support activities to better serve the target population of youth who are currently, or at risk of becoming, chronically absent.  That program quickly became the largest, most comprehensive in-school mentoring effort in the nation within a single city (New York) reaching nearly 10,000 students who were chronically absent or at risk of becoming chronically absent.  In replicating the “Success Mentors” model, the Collaborative will sub-contract with Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) to provide training and technical support.

“I want to thank the mentors for their dedication to this program,” began Family Services Mentoring Director Leah Feroce as she addressed those assembled for the launch.  “And to the students here in the room I want to share with you a line we use when recruiting our mentors, ‘Become someone who matters to someone who matters.’  Now, YOU are that someone.”  And with that, our 2018 Success Mentors participants got down to business acquainting themselves with one another through a series of community-building activities followed by dinner in the high school’s upper cafeteria – the  first of many shared experiences to unfold over the next two years.  “Each kid should have somebody that they can count on being there for them,” reflected Fernando Rodriguez  a new mentor and Specialist in the school’s Media Department.  “I signed up to be a mentor in order to be that someone.”

To learn more about Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s mentoring programs, please visit…


Meet Janiahlee! Big Friends Little Friends Mentee of the Month

Posted in Mentoring, Uncategorized on March 9th, 2018 with 3 Comments

Mentee of the Month: JaniahleeJaniahlee is a relaxed and cheerful 4th grader who would benefit from a positive role model who can help her build confidence and explore interests.  She is one of many children waiting to be matched with a caring adult mentor through Big Friends Little Friends—a mentoring program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley.

Janiahlee has favorite activities she would love to share with her Big Friend, like cooking, playing board games, or going to the zoo, but she’s also eager to try new things.  Her open-minded and easygoing spirit ensures she’s having a great time whether playing soccer or painting her nails.  The one-on-one attention that mentoring provides will be a special gift to Janiahlee, who is the eldest of four siblings.

One of Janiahlee’s many strengths is her perseverance.  Although academics are challenging for her, she loves school—especially social studies, math, and language arts.  A mentor can be a key support and cheerleader for Janiahlee as she builds her skills and confidence.  Could you offer an hour or two each week to Janiahlee?

Please contact at the Big Friends Little Friends program today to get started making a positive impact in the life of a child in your community.

Big Friends Little Friends, a program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, is a mentoring program that matches volunteer adult mentors with youth, ages 6-14, who could benefit from a relationship with a positive adult role model. “Bigs,” who provide friendship, guidance, and support for their “Little,” get together 1.5-2 hours a week for a minimum of one year. Big Friends Little Friends serves 15 towns in the Merrimack Valley.

Empowering Parents on Their Journey

Posted in Community on March 8th, 2018 with No Comments

Here, All Voices Are Heard…

While learning about child development and how best to discipline one’s child are critical elements in raising a child, many parents and caregivers are often best served by first taking a step back and reflecting on experiences from their own childhood before they begin to develop concrete goals for improving their relationship with their own children.  Through Family Services Parenting Journey program, local mothers and fathers are offered a safe forum in which to share these personal journey stories and from them build upon their skills as parents.  As part of the program, which takes place on select Wednesday evenings at our Family and Community Resource Center, parents are invited to join with others to gather, to enjoy a family-style dinner and to gain insights from other participants and the Parenting Journey curriculum.  The curriculum is made available through the Somerville-based non-profit organization Parenting Journey and is designed to help mothers, fathers, and caregivers increase their confidence and resilience while laying the groundwork for strong family relationships.

In their approach, Parenting Journey programs go far deeper than the traditional “how to” classes.  The sessions are not meant to be lectures.  With their roundtable format (focused on the thoughtful engagement of all participants) these evening gatherings are opportunities for parents to develop themselves as nurtured and nurturing people, capable of making responsible and informed choices in raising their children. To date more than 52,000 of parents have participated in Parenting Journey programs across the globe since 2007.  Below are the Parenting Journey core features:

Nutritious Meal – Each session begins with a family-style meal and space for connecting with others in the group.

Childcare – High-quality onsite childcare.

Group Participation – Each session includes group activities and discussion. Share your experiences, thoughts, and feelings in an environment of safety, trust, and respect.

Supportive Facilitation – Through a non-judgmental program model, trained facilitators strive to create an atmosphere that promotes open and honest discussion, welcoming all points of view.

The Parenting Journey group facilitator is both counselor and educator and is tasked with establishing a safe atmosphere with supportive limits in which parents can express themselves and integrate their emotional experiences with their cognitive understanding.  Tantrums, routines, letting go and love are some of the topics unpacked in a typical evening session.  For over a year, Miguelina Cabrera and Blanca Duran have shared the facilitating duties (in both Spanish and English) for Family Services’ implementation of the curriculum.  “I love working with this material especially because we cover everything beginning with each participant’s childhood.  As we do, we incorporate each person’s values and explore how parenting patterns repeat, for better or worse.  By week 2 (of the 12 week program) you can already see a difference in the way the parents are expressing themselves,” shared Ms. Cabrera.  “Students feel comfortable sharing their highs and lows here in a comfortable confidential setting.  By the time we finish the program, these mothers and fathers are  experts on how to work through issues with their children.  They are better parents for having gone through the class.  We have some parents that have even been reunited with their children as a result of completing the Parenting Journey program,” she added.

According to the program’s developer, graduates of the Parenting Journey program report:

  • A positive change in their relationships with other people in general.
  • A transition from negative feelings to positive feelings about life and themselves.
  • A positive change in their relationship with their children.
  • An ability to freely communicate accomplishments resulting from their participation in the program.

In closing (or, “Cierre”) on a recent Wednesday evening, the 100 percent participation continues as the group recaps the material covered.  The relaxed setting allows for all voices to be heard.  As one young mother explained her experience with the program… “I discovered the Parenting Journey program through my Social Worker.  I really enjoy sitting down to dinner with everyone and knowing that we are all going through many of the same things as parents.  Here’s a safe place where we can all be honest about that and where I can remember that I’m not alone in raising my daughter.”

Family Services partners with the Department of Children and Families to provide the Family & Community Resource Center, located at 530 Broadway, 3rd Floor in Lawrence.  Contact the FCRC at 978.975.8800.  All services are free and open to all families in Essex County and include:

  • Assessment and family support planning.
  • Peer-to-peer support groups for youth, grandparents raising grandchildren, and “Parents Helping Parents”.
  • Life skills workshops for youth, parents and families, such as bullying prevention, financial literacy and behavior management.
  • Cultural, social, recreational, and community service activities, including holiday gatherings, bingo nights, and National Night Out.
  • Information and referral services.
  • English as a Second Language classes.


Local Resident to be Honored at State House for Leadership in Suicide Prevention

Posted in Uncategorized on March 5th, 2018 with No Comments

Image courtesy of the Daily Hampshire Gazette

On Monday, March 12, 2018 leaders from across Massachusetts will be recognized as part of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention (MCSP) annual Leadership in Suicide Prevention event at the State House in Boston. This year’s awardees come from across the state, including the Berkshires, South Shore, Nantucket and Newburyport and Andover.  Among those being recognized for their efforts is former Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley staff member, Janice McCarthy.

Beyond her professional experience with the Samaritans, a program of Family Services, McCarthy has an acute personal understanding of the pain of those families effected by suicide. Her husband, Captain Paul McCarthy, a Massachusetts state trooper, killed himself in 2006 after a series of traumatic incidents he experienced on the job over 13 years.  “He got into trouble at work and home. He didn’t sleep; he couldn’t go to family functions, didn’t like to be around people, didn’t like to do anything that we used to do, didn’t want to fly,” recalled McCarthy in a 2017 interview with the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “At the end of his life, his perception of his reality was very skewed.”  Suicide is the number one killer of law enforcement officers in the United States.  Each year in this country between 140-160 police officers are killed on duty; primarily from auto accidents, assaults and gunfire.  And, each year almost twice that number of police officers lose their life to suicide.“They (law enforcement officers) get physical training, they get training on CPR and ballistics and all that,” McCarthy noted. “But the thing that killed them the most is themselves. And, there’s no training on that.”

Paul McCarthy was 41 when he took his own life.  Following the suicide death of her husband, Ms. McCarthy, an Andover resident, transformed her grief into action and founded the non-profit Care of Police Suicide Survivors (COPSS).  She has since trained law enforcement officers across the state and country, including at Quantico headquarters in Virginia. More than a decade after her husband’s death, Janice initiated (H 2496), a bill in the Massachusetts State Legislature to require mental wellness, suicide prevention, and PTSD training for police officers.  At that time she enlisted this support of her State Representative James Lyons (R-Andover) and Timothy Whelan (R-Brewster) who co-sponsored the legislation.  The bill presently has the support of nine legislators and is now under review with the Joint Committee for Health Care Financing.

Since 1999, the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention has been working to bring about awareness and mobilize community action in response to the public health crisis of suicide in the Commonwealth, a tragedy that claims more lives in the state than homicide and HIV/AIDS. The MCSP seeks to serve as a bridge between those on the front lines of suicide prevention and local communities seeking to make their communities safe and healthy.  Their Leadership in Suicide Prevention awards will be presented by various legislators in the Great Hall at the State House  in Boston at 9 AM. The event is free and open to the public.  Family Services salutes our friend and former co-worker Janice McCarthy as she receives this honor.  Thank you for the difference you are making!

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  To learn more about the suicide programming we offer, please visit the Samaritans page on our website.  Family Services’ Samaritans also provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This 24/7 service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. Reach our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673).


In Search of Excellence – Stand & Deliver Mentor Honored for Going the Extra Mile

Posted in Mentoring on March 1st, 2018 with No Comments

Image, courtesy of Romana Vysatova

“Know of a staff member at a corporate partner that is strengthening the community through their support of young people?” was the question posed to Family Services earlier this year.  The inquiry came from our friends at Mass Mentoring Partnership (MMP) as they were seeking nominees for consideration of their 2018  Excellence in Empowering Youth Adult Relationships awardThe honor recognizes those individuals who dig deep in their community service – who go that extra mile every day to promote in support of youth-adult mentoring relationships through:

  • Volunteerism
  • Financial contributions
  • In-kind support
  • Board or committee participation or involvement in fundraising or cause marketing efforts

Emily Cislo, a Raytheon employee and volunteer mentor in Family Services’ Stand & Deliver mentoring program, naturally came to mind as a nominee.  Check, check, check and check…  to each of these areas of support.  Emily’s outstanding commitment to mentoring also caught the attention of the award’s 2018 selection panel, and on Tuesday, February 13, in the presence of over 100 guests, Deb Lawrence from Bank of America (and a member MMP’s board) presented presented Ms. Cislo (pictured at right above) with an Excellence in Empowering Youth Adult Relationships awardThe award was presented at Loomis Sayles in Boston as part of MMP’s annual Corporate Mentoring Summit.  In addition to the awards presentation, Carolyn Jones, Publisher of the Boston Business Journal, facilitated a discussion featuring three business/nonprofit partnerships that are working to provide college and career readiness opportunities for youth. In the panel discussion attendees learned how Raytheon is working with Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Stand & Deliver program to give youth in Lawrence the chance to receive STEM tutoring from Raytheon employees.  Family Services’ Chief Executive Officer Liz Sweeney was among the panelists sharing their insights from the front-lines of such programming.

Family Services’ Stand & Deliver is an academic mentoring program that matches Lawrence Public School and Greater Lawrence Technical School students with volunteers from New Balance, Pfizer, Raytheon, Charles River Labs and Schneider Electric.  Each week the students are transported to the partner company for 60 – 90 minute sessions. On site, the matches work on homework, MCAS prep, AP coursework, high school/college readiness, as well as building strong relationships with one other.  Stephanie Lanza-Howell, a Stand & Deliver Program Coordinator, shares this example which illustrates the distance to which Emily often goes in her service.  “On mentoring days there are times where students quickly complete homework assignments (or do not have any to work on) during sessions.  In these instances, Emily has used her own money to purchase educational games and activities for matches to work on. She also wheels down a cart of books to each session for the students to browse at and take books home with them to read. Every year she also helps provide a book to each student during our bookmobile.  Emily goes above and beyond her role as a mentor and a coordinator. ”

Emily was also a natural nominee given the 10 plus year investment she has made in the Stand & Deliver program.  Her multifaceted dedication has fueled the program tremendously through the years.  “The students really enjoy their time with Emily, and our staff appreciates all the hard work and dedication she voluntarily puts into the program,” reflects Ms. Lanza-Howell.  “She does this all while having a full time (and demanding) engineering position at Raytheon.  Both the students and Stand & Deliver staff as well as other mentors are extremely grateful. She helps ensure our students get the most out of the program. Through her constant support we are able to keep our program running smoothly each year.”

Family Services extends a great big THANK YOU to all of our many volunteers and salutes Emily on being honored by MMP with an Excellence in Empowering Youth Adult Relationships award.  If you would like to learn more about our Stand & Deliver program or other opportunities for supporting Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, please visit…