Xavier Ross: A Life Being Transformed, a Leader in the Making

It’s safe to assume 13-year-old Xavier Ross didn’t initially set out to be a leader among his peers. In fact, in his words, when he was in 6th grade, “I wasn’t used to following rules, I was pretty immature and I got in trouble a lot.”

But then, after more time at The Academy, the middle school run by Jericho’s Pathways Danbury Youth Ministries, Xavier began to grow and mature – as a student, and in his faith.

Erick Hernandez: "This Program Is What It Says It Is"

To hear Erick Hernandez tell it, the 6th-grade version of himself was “a rowdy kid” who didn’t pay much attention to his teachers and didn’t care much about his school work.  His grades told the dismal story.

Today, however, there exists a completely different version of Erick Hernandez – a “totally focused student” and graduate of Immaculate High School who has successfully completed the Pathways Danbury Mentoring program, grown in maturity and faith, and earned a $10,000 grant from the Maranatha Foundation (a Jericho Foundation Partner) to pave the way to limitless potential.

Natasha Wright: Naomi Graduate

Natasha Wright has the distinction of being among the first young women to graduate from Naomi Mentoring … and she’s done it with honor, holding the highest GPA of the eight girls who last week graduated from area high schools, the realization of Jericho Partnership’s mission to increase graduation rates among Danbury youth.

Thanks to her success in meeting the criteria set out by Naomi and the Maranatha Foundation (Jericho’s Foundation Partner), Natasha will receive a $10,000 grant to use for educational or career-advancement purposes.  A graduate of Danbury High School, Natasha plans to attend Western Connecticut State University to major in Psychology.

She joined Naomi the end of 8th grade and was paired with Mentor Hope Johnson; she’s been with Mentor Michelle Romano since her Junior year of high school, when Hope moved out of the area.

Natasha shares more about her experience with Pathways Danbury Youth Ministries…

Five Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering

We know that volunteering to serve others –  at Jericho, we call it “being the hands and feet of Jesus” – is a blessing to those who receive your time, compassion and love.

But what about the volunteer? Recent research has determined that there are some surprising benefits to the person sharing his or her time with others.

Here are five unexpected benefits of volunteering:

Marcus Harrison: "I'm 10X More on Top of the World"

Marcus Harrison, 19, remembers the time, a couple of years ago, when his mentor made all the difference in his world, and probably his future, too.

It was SAT week, and Marcus was worrying about taking the all-important test that would determine whether he would get into college.

“I was stressing. I called Mark (Lounsbury, his mentor through Pathways Danbury) and he started telling me ‘Marcus, you’re a smart kid. You’re prepared. You know you can do it. You’re just psyching yourself out. Stay calm and focus, and you’ll do great.’”

“He got my head back in the game, and I stopped my whining,” Marcus said. “He was always there for me. Always.”

Today, after having done “pretty well, actually” on his SAT, Marcus is studying Public Health at Franklin Pierce College.  He says the mentoring relationships he had through Jericho Partnership had a life-changing impact on him.

“I am ten times more on top of the world,” he said. “That people took the time to see my personality and spend time learning how I would function best, is really great. They give you guidance that most kids don’t get to have.”

Marcus credits his tutors at S.A.Y. Yes! with helping him through math (“my worst subject), and Mark Lounsbury with giving him a place to take his problems, especially when he didn’t want to go to his parents.

“I learned a lot of life lessons that made me stronger,” he said. “This program creates fantastic people…people who mentor others, and people who were mentored. Mark is a fantastic person and I want to be just like him. He’s got a great job, with a beautiful family and he drives a nice car; I want that for myself, and he’s a great role model.”

Marcus also said that, these days, he’d do anything he could for Mark. “I tell Mark, ‘I’ll give you anything you want, because you gave me everything I needed.’”

PDYM Alum Give Back Through Football

Two Danbury brothers, whose lives were transformed by Pathways Danbury Youth Ministries’ mentoring programs, have created a youth flag football organization with the goal of developing not only area youths’ athletic ability, but their character and pride too.

Kih Best, 22, and Robert Best, 19, have started Connecticut Pride Flag Football, and are inviting both boys and girls from all over greater Danbury to a series of free clinics this month at the Danbury Sports Dome. A tournament ($10 per player) will follow; during both, coaches will be evaluating players for a travel flag football team that could potentially play at regional levels.  Selection to the travel team, will be based on attitude, improvement and athletic ability, they say.

The organization is being sponsored by PDYM, a ministry of Jericho Partnership, and the Mitchell Oil Company. The clinics, for athletes aged 8 -14, take place every Sunday: January 8 and 22 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm; January 15 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.; January 29 from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m.

“We wanted to start an organization that was just for kids, and not run by parents,” said Robert, who along with his brother have been players, coaches and referees with various sports teams. “Every single kid that is going into this is going to come out a better athlete, but also a better person, because we are going to talk about things like that at our team meetings.”

“We really just want to give back, and bring kids together and give them a sense of brotherhood since they don’t normally play (sports) with each other,” Kih said. “They see each other at the movies and at the mall, but we just wanted to bring them all together and give them that sense of family. Flag football is one of those activities where you can be good at it even if you haven’t played football or other sports, because it’s about speed and agility.”

Both young men were mentored for years through Pathways Danbury, a Jericho program that matches at-risk boys with a mentor who helps guide them through life’s inevitable challenges. They both say their affiliation with Pathways has brought them to where they are today.

“It’s made me mature,” said Robert.  “If it weren’t for Mr. (Michael) Taylor (his mentor) and Mrs. (Clara) Perkins (PDYM leader) being tough on me, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and we wouldn’t be doing this. They always taught me to look to the future and to always think big.”

The clinics are open to athletes from Danbury, Brookfield, New Milford, and other towns. Teams are being assembled for 8-10 year-olds (co-ed); 11-12 year-olds (coed); 13-14 year-olds (boys); and 13-14 year-olds (girls). Clinics will cover introduction to flag football, basic football skills, footwork and football vision, and speed and agility. Participants must attend at least two clinics and play in the tournament to be eligible for the travel team.

To register, visit  For questions about the clinics or tournament, contact Kih at (203) 313-8119 or Robert (203) 313-7716.