Stamford’s Future 5 begins 10-year anniversary celebrations
STAMFORD — It was the first day of her freshman year at Stamford High School when Jessica Saturne wandered into the Future 5 offices on Atlantic Street. Her older siblings had told her they benefited from the organization’s free mentoring services.
Four years later, Future 5 has helped Saturne land jobs working at the carousel at Mill River Park, as a receptionist at small local businesses and in movie theaters. Future 5 volunteers sat by Saturne’s side as she sent her college applications and accompanied her on campus tours. They even picked her up after school and took her to parades around Stamford.
Saturne, now an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Connecticut-Stamford, has a strong support network from Future 5 and a better sense of what career path she wants to follow.
“They’ve been there emotionally, regardless of school,” Saturne said. “They’ve taken me to events just for fun. They’ve provided family in a sense.”
This was the goal of Clif McFeely, who founded Future 5 in 2009. His first career was in advertising, but in his spare time he was a volunteer mentor with the Big Brothers organization.
“It opened my eyes to a lot of things going on with our kids, particularly here in Stamford,” McFeely said. “I got to know a lot of (my little brother’s) friends very well and I got to follow where their lives were going through school and beyond school and saw there were a lot of dead ends for the kids who didn’t have the base support they needed in life.”
McFeely began a new career in mentoring when his company, North Castle Advertising, closed. But rather than follow a one-on-one mentor model, McFeely’s goal was to create a program for high school students to connect to coaches in a group setting to develop a large network. Future 5 was born offering students after-school workshops in job and college preparation, as well as community service and tutoring opportunities.
It was the “Here to There” job prep program that helped Geovany “Geo” Glaude, 24, get hired in high school at Abercrombie and Fitch. Glaude was a senior when he transferred to Stamford High School. Future 5 provided him job prep skills and a wealth of support.
“They’re like a backbone,” said Glaude, who’s studying development and economics at Norwalk Community College and working in graphic design. “They’re like a backbone. They keep you going, pushing you in the right direction and the preparation comes from the classes and courses that you take. There were times I started doubting myself. They would push you and motivate you and lend a hand out whenever you need it. I’m still here cause of them.”
In August, Rachel Dewey became the new executive director of Future 5. Dewey had worked at Horizons, a Norwalk Community College enrichment program for low-income Norwalk students. Dewey said she wasn’t looking to leave until a friend said she found the “perfect job” for her at Future 5.
“I found this high school and college component really appealing and interesting,” Dewey said. “It’s done in such an organic, genuine way. It’s truly character based. It’s truly holistic. I think that’s really where you get the long-term support and relationships to make a difference.”
McFeely said Future 5, which has evolved from volunteer based to hiring a staff, has reached more than 500 children in the past decade.
Dewey said the group will soon begin examining its strategic process, examining the group of students they reach and where they end up.
Dewey said Future 5 has recently shifted its focus to the college success program, developing a new partnership with UConn-Stamford similarly to one it’s had with NCC.
The group began its anniversary celebrations with a luncheon last week at Stamford Yacht Club attended by Future 5 founding members and alumni.
Saturne was among those who attended, but her appearance wasn’t unusual. Just like McFeely imagined when he began his journey, she still stops by the Future 5 offices almost every week.
firstname.lastname@example.org; (203) 964-2265; @erin_kayata