January 21, 2020
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With a background in counseling and a knack for bringing groups together, Jill Paglino has found a welcoming home in the Clinton Youth & Family Services Department. Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News

With a background in counseling and a knack for bringing groups together, Jill Paglino has found a welcoming home in the Clinton Youth & Family Services Department. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)

Jill Paglino: Empowerment for All Ages

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Clinton’s Youth & Family Services Department hosts numerous programs geared toward all age groups in the community. The person behind many of those programs is Program Coordinator Jill Paglino.

“My job is kind of different every day,” says Jill.

One day may feature Jill helping to run a summer program, while the next day you can find her figuring out a way to allow a junior at The Morgan School to experience a potential career interest. One thing is for sure: Jill is never doing nothing.

As a program coordinator, part of Jill’s job to develop different groups in response to different community needs. As an example, there is a group dedicated to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren that meets once a month in the library to discus any issues they are having.

“There is a growing population of people that are in that situation,” says Jill.

Other clubs that Jill has started include a mother-daughter club in which girls and their moms get together to discuss things going on in the girl’s lives and a youth open mic night where kids learn to play music alongside adults who can help teach them new music. Jill credits Bob Farace and Lorain Simister with helping make the open mic night a success.

As with the open mic night, much of what she does is matching needs with the right resources.

“Anything that needs to be addressed, I try to find a way to,” explains Jill. “We’ve been doing a lot of suicide prevention training in the agency.”

So far Jill says that almost every town staff member along with 25 residents and 50 kids have been trained in the prevention technique.

“We want to train as many people as we can. If you know 10 people, chances are you know someone with depression or some other kind of mental illness,” Jill says, adding that it is likely the agency will do another round of training in the fall.

One of Jill’s proudest accomplishments is the Shoreline Girls Leadership Conference, which she established six years ago. The conference is aimed at girls in grades 5 to 8 and consists of workshops run by high school girls from across the shoreline area.

The focus of the conference is on youth leadership, positive peer influence, and tackling issues facing young girls today. The idea came from a similar conference that makes place in Maine each year. Jill was interested in bringing the conference to Guilford, where she still lives today, and reached out to a member of the Guilford Youth & Family Services Department to make it happen.

“It’s hard when you start to get people to buy in, but now we’re past that hurdle,” Jill says.

By having the high school girls lead the workshops, it creates a different dynamic than having an adult lead the conference, according to Jill.

“I’m a little removed from an 11-year-old girl—I don’t listen to the same music they do,” Jill jokes. “It’s meaningful for them to have that experience.”

During the school year, Jill spends a significant amount of her time helping run the job shadow program at The Morgan School. The program is open to students in their junior year, and allows for the students to spend a day in the field observing someone doing a job the student thinks they may want to do in the future.

Jill says this past year she had everything from a student who wanted to be a philosophy professor to one who wanted to learn how to build cars. While Jill says it’s always a good sign when the students come back from the shadow experience having loved it, the experience can be equally beneficial if they don’t necessarily like what they see firsthand.

“Sometimes they say they didn’t like it and that’s great, because you just saved yourself two years there of having to change a major in college,” Jill says.

Jill grew up in New Jersey, but has lived in Guilford since 2003. Prior to her arrival in Clinton’s Youth & Family Services Department, Jill worked as a guidance counselor for 13 years.

“I have to say it was a different path,” Jill says.

In helping to coordinate the girl’s leadership program, Jill met some people from the Clinton Youth & family Services Department, and got to know them through doing various workshops together. Eventually a position in the department became available. In October she will have been with the department for two years.

“My job is fun because I get to do a little bit of counseling, which is my background, and the programming, too,” Jill explains.

As for her favorite part of her job, Jill says she enjoys the enrichment camp she runs, which is camps that meets twice a week in the mornings. At the camp Jill has local people come in and teach the kids everything from science experiments to song and music skills to hiking trips.

“We have a variety of skills the goal is for them to learn something new,” Jill says.

Jill also enjoys collecting sea glass to make jewelry and even has taught a class on how to do it. In her spare time, Jill can be found spending time with her husband Justin, playing volleyball, and practicing her drumming, a skill she has improved at since she began taking lessons five years ago.

“I call myself a perfectly adequate drummer,” she says.

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