Tag Archives: Student Organizations

DREAM Mentors Support Middlebury Youth

DREAM college student mentors support Middlebury youth living in two low-income neighborhoods through guidance and friendship, creating a lasting impact.

DREAM (Directing through Recreation, Education, Adventure, and Mentoring) is a national non-profit organization based in Vermont that aims to “close the opportunity gap for children in low-income housing” through mentoring and steady involvement opportunities. DREAM supports and partners with the DREAM Middlebury College student organization that pairs college students with youth from affordable housing neighborhoods.

Middlebury College student mentors play with youth mentees at the
Virtue Athletic Field House and help get out the Friday wiggles!

DREAM offers a variety of programs that help enrich the lives of young children who otherwise would not have as much access to out-of-school learning opportunities compared to their higher-income counterparts. The work DREAM does with children is only partially based on college campuses– other programs are Camp DREAM–which is free for all eligible youth in DREAM–Teen and College Preparatory, and Summer Enrichment.

DREAM’s partnership with Middlebury College seeks to address the opportunity gap here in Addison County by partnering student mentors with DREAM youth. Student mentors meet with the children each Friday afternoon to play games and build relationships. DREAM with Middlebury College engages in both group mentoring (primarily) and one-on-one mentoring.

Casey Thomas, the DREAM Community Organizer and AmeriCorps VISTA Member this year, is supporting student mentors and mentees within the DREAM program. He acts as a liaison between the National DREAM Office and the Middlebury Program and facilitates fun activities for the amazing Middlebury youth they work with.

“There are moments when you work with youth, especially those in need, when you make a deep personal connection that can change their life and yours. The kids we work with, like all kids, need positive role models in their lives and the mentors can be that positive force. Our program not only serves our youth, but also the mentors who grow and feel the monumental impact of helping others.”

Casey Thomas, Middlebury DREAM Community Organizer and AmeriCorp VISTA Member

This program seeks to create a positive relationship between youth and adults built in trust and support. Janice Zhang ‘20.5, Outgoing DREAM Co-Chair, attests to the positive impact that DREAM has left her as well as on the children she’s worked with:

“The best part of being a DREAM Co-Chair was being able to see my hard work pay off every Friday and seeing how much the kids enjoy our company. I have learned that, at the end of the day, DREAM is all about having fun and that you don’t have to take yourself too seriously. This truly is an incredible experience.”

Janice Zhang ‘20.5, Outgoing DREAM Co-Chair

DREAM believes that the “opportunity gap is a root cause of why almost half of low-income children become low-income adults.” Guidance and support from loving adults is vital in helping youth become more than what their situation and bigger systems of inequality can limit them to be.

Interested in becoming a DREAM mentor? Please contact Casey Thomas at cthomas@dreamprogram.org.

College Access Passion Meets Practice: Brian Ketchabaw Reflects

This student leader spotlight features Brian Ketchabaw ’20, one of the future co-presidents for MiddCAM (Middlebury College Access Mentors).

MiddCAM is a one-on-one mentorship program that pairs Middlebury College student mentors with high school juniors who are primarily first-generation and/or low-income college applicants. Mentors help guide their mentees through the college application process by helping them coordinate standardized testing, come up with a college list, editing essays and personal statements, and providing information about the college experience. Recently, they also began supporting drop-in hours at both Middlebury Union High School (MUHS) and Mt. Abe High School.

I asked Brian some questions to learn about how his story and MiddCAM’s story intersect. Here are his reflections!

Let’s get a little background on you: Where are you from and what’s your major? What activities are you involved with on (and off) campus?

I am from Rye Brook, NY and I am a double major in Economics and Sociology with a minor in Education Studies. I am on the Men’s Varsity Ice Hockey team, co-president of MiddCAM, and I am going into my third year as student staff with ResLife.  

Why and when did you first join MiddCAM?

I joined MiddCAM my freshman year because the president at the time (Meg Poterba) was my FYC in Battell. I immediately felt a close connection with MiddCAM and joined the board my freshman spring.

What have you learned, both about yourself or the world around you, as a member of MiddCAM?

I have learned that all college students–especially students at a college like Middlebury–have a lot to give to their community. Whether it is volunteering at places like the Charter House, joining the Community Friends program, or joining MiddCAM, we can make a real impact in the community that has given us so much. I am a big believer in paying it forward. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic college advising team in high school which prepared me for the college process very well. Instead of just simply using those developed skills on myself, I love the fact that I can share my knowledge with MUHS students.

Congrats on your co-president leadership role in MiddCAM for next year! What are you looking forward to in that role?

I am looking forward to expanding MiddCAM. Since I joined my freshman year, we have more than doubled the mentors and mentees involved. I would like to continue that trend in order to increase our impact even further. Additionally, we are progressing “drop-in hours” so even MUHS students who are not involved in MiddCAM can come ask us questions about the college process.

We hear from Sociology Assistant Professor Matt Lawrence (the new Faculty Director of the Privilege and Poverty Academic Cluster) that you’re connecting this interest to your thesis. Tell us about how MiddCAM has shaped your academic interests and pursuits.

I have always been interested in education, but my experience with MiddCAM and at Middlebury College as a whole has accelerated my interest. The Education Studies department is fantastic here, and I have learned a great deal about the inequalities of education and how difficult it is for disadvantaged students to succeed in the current education system. Additionally, I have taken Sociology classes, such as Higher Education in Society, that helped me develop a thesis in my interests. Next fall, I will be writing my thesis about MiddCAM and the importance of pre-college access programs. Additionally, this will give me a great opportunity to hear real feedback from past MiddCAM mentees in order to figure out what parts of MiddCAM need to be developed further.  

Thanks, Brian, and we look forward to hearing more about MiddCAM as it continues to develop!


Brian playing at the rink for the Men’s Varsity Ice Hockey team.