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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.