News Feature

Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 15, 2012
Lily’s owner takes staff position with Ready by 21

Kyra Alex of Lily’s Cafe

Kyra Alex of Lily’s Cafe fame has taken a position as Director of Menotring for Ready by 21. Alex has volunteered extensively with the program and looks forward to developing a mentor program for Island youth.

Photo courtesy of Kyra Alex

by Jessica Brophy

While locals may have been hoping and waiting for Kyra Alex to reopen Lily’s Café, Alex has other plans for herself.

Alex has taken a half-time position as Director of Mentoring for the Ready by 21 program, which is managed by Healthy Peninsula. Alex has volunteered with Ready by 21 extensively since it launched in spring of 2011.

The need for a mentoring program as part of Ready by 21 has become clear through needs assessment, said Amy Vaughn, former Healthy Peninsula director and current co-chairman of the Ready by 21 steering committee.

Alex has a degree in psychology and a minor in social work and has spent 20 years working with young adults as an employer in the food industry. “This is a natural connection for me,” said Alex

“The goal [of mentoring] is to instill some sort of belief in themselves and open up the world to them,” said Alex. Alex said that she has worked closely with many young adults from the Island as a business owner and seen them struggle with the challenges of transitioning into adulthood. Alex said the fact that her partner, Renee Sewall, is from the Island also helps her to connect to the population.

Currently, Alex is organizing the “Real World 101” classes at the high school, which have included several all-school sessions.

The details of the mentoring program are still being worked out, but Vaughn and Alex said there will be a combination of group sessions and one-to-one mentoring. Small group work is likely to begin in eighth, ninth and tenth grades, encouraging students to start thinking about and planning for the future and what it might take to successfully accomplish the student’s goals, whether that is higher education, specific social and work skills or training in a trade.

The “hallmark” of the program, however, will be the idea that every student at the age of 17 will be assigned a mentor to work with them until the age of 22, to help assist the transition beyond high school.

“What we’re hearing is that students are graduating, but then feeling at a loss about what to do a year or two after graduation,” said Vaughn. An example might be a student who finds college isn’t for them but isn’t sure what an alternative might be, or a student who graduates with a small business plan but is unsure how to implement it.

The mentoring program would also host programs for groups of students and recent graduates to help learn life skills like cooking, which Alex said has been a huge hit with students so far.

“We want to make sure all young adults have the tools to make good choices,” said Alex.

All mentors will be subject to a background check and will have extensive training, said Alex. The mentoring program will be monitored by Child and Family Opportunities, the fiscal sponsor of Healthy Peninsula. CFO also runs Head Start, said Alex, and is well-versed in establishing and maintaining safety measures.

Alex does not plan to reopen Lily’s Café, and instead will re-name the property simply Lily’s. She hopes to continue using the space for cooking workshops and other events.