Couple Establishes Challenge Grant for Mentoring Program

Linda and David Glickstein during a hike.
Linda and David Glickstein during a hike.

Linda and David Glickstein believe so strongly in the value of UConn’s Mentor Connection enrichment program for talented high schoolers, they established a challenge grant to encourage others to help support it.

The Glicksteins will match dollar-for-dollar any pledge up to $1,000 per donor for a total of $15,000. Their goal is to raise at least $30,000 for the program by next summer, when another cohort of talented teens arrive to work with faculty, graduate students, and research assistants on current research initiatives. Housed in the Neag School of Education’s Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, Mentor Connection has brought students to campus from around the country and overseas. The program is offered to high school juniors or seniors ranked in the top 25 percent of their class with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants must demonstrate their commitment to academic excellence in order to be considered.

“The program is designed to engage the students in more hands-on, investigative and creative activities rather than the more typical high school kind of learning that involves sitting, listening, taking the test and getting a grade,” says Joseph Renzulli, professor emeritus of educational psychology, who helped develop the program.

“Mentor Connection provides high school students with education that is usually far beyond what they have experienced and gives them something to aspire to,” says Linda Glickstein, who taught gifted students for many years in Pennsylvania and, with her husband, David, has supported the program for 15 years.

“The students get to meet like-minded kids they might not otherwise get to know and join a community where their academic ambitions are accepted and applauded,” says David Glickstein, who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from UConn.

“We hope this challenge grant will encourage more people to support the Mentor Connection program,” says Linda Glickstein. “No donation is too small. Our hope is that the students who participated in the program will think about giving back at whatever level they can, and we can supplement their donation by matching it.”

The philanthropic support provided by the Glicksteins and others has helped ensure the program remains accessible to talented students who might not otherwise be able to afford it, says Heather Spottiswoode, a coordinator of the program. “It’s a residential program, which means the students are really immersed in the college experience, but it also means it costs a bit more. We rely on philanthropic support from the Glicksteins and other individuals and foundations to enhance the program’s diversity, which we think is an essential component of its success.”

More than 1,100 students have participated in the Mentor Connecticut program since it began in 1996, says Spottiswoode, who has been working to track participants and their perception of the influence of the Mentor Connection program on their academic and career accomplishments.

About 17 percent of Mentor Connection participants attended UConn for their undergraduate studies, and of those, about 150 participated in Mentor Connection with the help of a scholarship. Other universities attended by groups of seven or more Mentor Connection students include Boston College, Cornell, Dartmouth, John Hopkins, MIT, Stanford, and Yale.

“One of the missions of Mentor Connection is to expose the students to college and encourage them to go, but we are always especially pleased when they attend UConn.”