January Spotlight Story

January 2022 Spotlight Story
Posted on 01/11/2022

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January Spotlight: Frank Di Berardino, The Driving Force behind Rome’s Mentoring Program


“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story,” – Josh Shipp


Frank P. Di Berardino III, is being recognized this month for his work with the Rome City School District (RCSD) Mentoring Program. DiBerardino is an Advisory Council Member of the New York State Mentoring Program and the organizer of a local mentoring program that connects mentors in the Rome community with local students. (Currently the program is on

hiatus because of the pandemic).


“Frank was the driving force behind the program’s success,” said William K. Guglielmo, President of the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce, who has played a major role in securing volunteer mentors from the community. “The one-on-one relationships that he was able to develop and maintain with 70+ volunteers who came from various backgrounds was truly remarkable. It started out as a much smaller group, yet each year afterward he was able to increase volunteer participation and involve more students. The way he recruited volunteer support from certain employers and various organizations was really quite impressive. Familiarizing the volunteers with the program, responding to their concerns, and organizing them into a cohesive group could not have been an easy task.  Clearly, it was a huge commitment on his part. He did it magnificently.  He laid a strong foundation for the continuation of the program,” said Guglielmo.



What do you like the most about your work with the Mentoring Program, and how do you think it has changed children’s/volunteers’ lives?


            There are several aspects of Rome’s mentoring program that are especially enjoyable and fulfilling for me:


            • Working with the mentees (children in grades 4, 5, and 6) is so rewarding when you see how being paired with mentors transforms their lives for the better. Many of these students acquire social skills that they didn’t previously have, and their self-esteem and self-confidence are measurably enhanced. Strong bonds are created with their mentors – so much so that many of the mentees choose to return to the program for two or three more years. The weekly mentoring experience provides a solid foundation for the children in terms of their future growth and well-being. It is an experience that the children will never forget.


            • Interacting with the mentors is a great privilege! Recruiting and working with adult volunteers who are willing to devote time each week during the school year to meet with their mentees in a school setting is a unique pleasure. I have seen mentors engage and connect so well with their mentees that by the end of the mentoring year, they have developed a wonderful relationship. We have been very fortunate that so many community residents are willing to devote their time and effort to help the kids.


            • Working in partnership with such dedicated professionals of the Rome City School District and the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce is the magic behind the mentoring program! From the district’s administrative staff, to the faculty members who serve as mentoring site coordinators, to the staff and business members of the Rome Chamber, the community is well served by these dedicated individuals. Also, actively involved with assisting the mentoring program are our community partners such as the Eastern Air Defense Sector and the Air Force Research Laboratory, which proudly provide mentors from their workforce.


            Simply put, the cooperative spirit and tireless devotion of educators, the business community, and local residents have made the Rome mentoring program what it is: a highly successful program that gives children hope for the future and makes a positive difference in their lives. Moreover, it is an exemplary model program for the rest of the state to emulate.


What/who inspired you to get involved in the NYS Mentoring Program?


            Matilda R. Cuomo, former New York First Lady and founder of the original New York State Mentoring Program, was the person who inspired me to get involved in mentoring.


            As a decades-long friend with whom I’ve worked on various projects and programs during and after her tenure as New York First Lady, Matilda invited me to attend the World Forum for Children in Naples, Italy, in 2012 that was sponsored by Mentoring Italia, an international affiliate of her non-profit Mentoring USA organization.


            She had asked me to speak at the conference about the importance of volunteerism, and how citizens can work together for the benefit of the community. In conversations with the conference delegates, I was impressed by their dedication and commitment to helping children through mentoring.


            Following the conference when we returned to the United States, Matilda then asked me if I would consider proposing the idea of a mentoring program to the RCSD. I promised her that I would work toward that goal.


            The Rome district enthusiastically endorsed the idea, and in 2014 we established a pilot program at Gansevoort Elementary School in partnership with Mentoring USA. After the original NYS Mentoring Program was reintroduced in 2015, the Rome district partnered with the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce and the NYS Mentoring Program to create a local mentoring program that over a period of four years grew from three to all seven elementary schools.



Advice for others looking to make a difference in their community?


            For individuals who would like to get involved in the community, there is no greater endeavor – or investment – than volunteering! There are so many organizations and projects that need volunteer help, whether it be in the areas of education, health, environment, creative arts, or civics. It also provides a great opportunity for volunteers to meet like-minded individuals interested in the betterment of the community.


            What can you do to serve your community? Volunteer to be a mentor. Or visit nursing home patients. Join a park clean-up project. Organize a food drive. Send letters to our military personnel serving overseas. Help raise money for a worthy community project. Volunteer in a school classroom. Establish a neighborhood watch program. Offer to help out in the public library. The possibilities are endless! Not only will you feel good about doing something for others, you will be providing a valuable service to the community!


“I can’t say enough about the Mentoring Program and Frank. When it first started there was a great deal of speculation that it wouldn’t be supported and the site coordinators would have to go it alone. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Frank was with us the whole way! He would show up to our events, take pictures, chat, and even help clean up! For me, I saw the Mentoring program provide kids with someone who was there just for them, to listen to them and just be present. I know it improved the attendance of those kids that were involved in the program because they looked forward to coming. I also think it was great insight for the Mentors into the challenges that not only our kids face today but our schools and teachers as well. That sense of community was truly growing,” said Laurie Jones, 2nd Grade Teacher at Gansevoort Elementary and former Site Coordinator for the Mentoring Program.


A little background about yourself and other organizations you belong to:


Volunteer Activities/Endeavors


MENTORING PROGRAMS - Has served as an Advisory Council Member of the New York State Mentoring Program.


HOSPICE & PALLIATIVE CARE - Has served as a hospice volunteer for 27 years, first with St. Peter's Hospice in Albany (NY), then with Hospice & Palliative Care, Inc., of New Hartford (NY). Has assisted terminally ill patients and their families with home-based care, has provided bereavement follow-up services, has performed public information and outreach functions, has recruited volunteers from the community to help with hospice projects, and has served as a member of the Hospice Ethics Committee.


ROME COMMUNITY FOUNDATION - Has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Rome Community Foundation, the mission of which is to assist in providing financial resources for the present and future enrichment of the Rome area community. The non-profit public foundation accepts gifts and bequests that are invested and administered by Board members; the income from the investment of these funds is used to award grants that benefit the people and charitable organizations of the Rome region.


NATIONAL BELLAMY AWARD ORGANIZATION - Has served in various positions over a 54-year period (currently as Director) with the distinguished non-profit group that has honored outstanding high schools throughout the nation that promote the ideals embodied in the Pledge of Allegiance. Named after Pledge author Francis Bellamy, the National Bellamy Award Organization continues to promote the Pledge ideals, and encourages schools to teach young people about the significance of responsible citizenship, community service, volunteerism, and the impact the historic oath has had on the social and cultural fabric of the United States.


HIGHWAY SAFETY EFFORTS - Was appointed to serve three terms on the National Youth Highway Safety Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C.; has worked to promote public awareness of highway safety as it relates to young people; has helped individual states establish statewide youth advisory councils; has served on the Committee's Speakers Bureau to encourage student participation in local and state highway and traffic safety projects.




Career working as a staff member of the New York State Legislature at the State Capitol in Albany, serving in various capacities including media relations, communications, public affairs, legislative research & analysis, information retrieval, and constituent outreach. Retired as the New York State Assembly Director of Member Services after 34 years of public service.


Frank was recognized at the RCSD BOE meeting on December 22, 2021 with a Resolution of Commendation, certificate from the District and recognition from Debbie Grogan from the Chamber.


Resolution for commendation: WHEREAS, the Board of Education of the Rome City School District encourages community partnership and supports for student success whenever possible; AND WHEREAS, Frank DiBerardino has been instrumental in the development and operations of the New York State mentoring program for Rome City School District students and community members; AND WHEREAS, Frank DiBerardino has brought recognition and credit to himself, our community, and in turn, the Rome City School District, NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT, RESOLVED: That the members of the Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools, do hereby commend and thank Frank DiBerardino, who has demonstrated unconditional support for our students and community, AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: that the clerk of the Board of Education be, and hereby is, directed to spread this resolution on the minutes of tonight’s meeting.


Alongside him was his sister Paula DiBerardino, A Special Projects Volunteer with the NYS Mentoring Program; William K. Guglielmo, President of the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce and Debbie Grogan of the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce, who acts as liaison with the mentoring program, was on hand to present DiBerardino with a Certificate of Recognition for his efforts to build partnerships between the Chamber and the Rome City School District’s mentoring program.


“Frank has been the backbone of the RCSD Mentoring Program. He spent countless hours making personal connections with community members, which resulted in partnerships with local employers and other groups of volunteers, as well as individual mentors. Without Frank's efforts, our program would not have grown so large and without his attention to detail it would not have been so successful and run so smoothly. We are so grateful for Frank's kind heart and his dedication to our school community,” said Amanda S. Jones, Director of Counseling Services for the RCSD.


“The good news from the State is that the New York State Mentoring Program will continue under the new administration. Post-COVID, we’re happy to get the program rolling again,” said DiBerardino.




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