The DREAM program pairs college students with mentees from affordable housing neighborhoods. It was established in 1999 by Dartmouth College, became a nonprofit organization in 2001, and has since grown to involve 13 colleges across New England. As of last year, this partnership also includes Johnson State College.
DREAM is a student-led program consisting of volunteer mentors from each of the participating colleges and universities. It is usually started by students and then completely run by students. “Here, it was approached by the administration first,” says Mentoring Coordinator, Sam Flint. “They really thought that it would be valuable for students to be able to participate in a program of that nature on campus.”
So, they approached the DREAM program to get the preliminary stages underway, and then they started recruiting volunteers. Currently JSC has recruited three students who pair up with Johnson Elementary School mentees. The mentees live in the Katy-Win trailer park located just outside of downtown Johnson.
Volunteers managed to connect with their mentees through the owner of the mobile home park and each mentee’s family.
Volunteers then had to sign waivers to be able to pick each student up at the elementary school each week, which is the only reason why Johnson Elementary is involved.
The mentors include Sharon Abbatiello, Jamie Forrest, and Taylor Wilbur, who meet on Wednesdays to discuss upcoming events, and every Friday donate their time and leadership to four children. They participate in such activities as playing ping-pong, shooting pool, swimming, climbing the rock wall, and more. The goal is to enrich the lives of each participating youth and to ultimately empower them to live healthy, productive, fulfilling lives.
“I got involved with DREAM, because I had heard about it from Sam, and saw signs about it, and it sounded interesting,” says Abbatiello. “When I showed up for the first meeting, I knew that this was something that would be so much fun, and I was so willing to jump in and help build DREAM here at JSC.”
According to the DREAM program website, www.dreamprogram.org, DREAM creates a supportive community that helps individuals face challenges, overcome differences, and succeed. College students hoping to gain experience in the non-profit sector while focusing on direct service can also apply for internships with DREAM, which are available each summer in all of their locations. Because the JSC program is still being established, internships may not be offered in Johnson yet.
For more information on how you can volunteer contact Sam Flint in Stearns 409 and for general background information and internship information you can visit www.dreamprogram.org.