Staff Mentorship Inaugural Ceremony

Mentors-in-Training interns get paired with DREAM staff members:

On Friday, January 13th, DREAM had its much anticipated “Mentor Reveal Day.” The program team and staff prepared a day of fun for the Mentor-in-Training interns, taking them to the Rolling Thunder Skating Center, before revealing staff mentor matches for our teens.

Created in the midst of our launch in Philadelphia, this innovative program devotes substantial resources to young students in their teenage years, cementing their college and career goals. The teenage years can be a troubling age for all, as issues are compounded by exposure to damaging forces, which causes these teens to disengage from school. This supportive group to which our teens apply are accepted after an interview and years of demonstrated commitment to DREAM; their role is to embrace new responsibilities in supporting our mentees and the organization, whereas our DREAM staff does our part to provide them with professional skills and the guidance to achieve success in life, with topics including healthy lifestyles, civic engagement, and most importantly, college education preparation. In the meantime, the interns sign a contract pledging to lead and facilitate activities for the younger cohort of mentees, planning the curriculum for our weekly enrichment programming, organizing community service events, and receiving professional academic tutoring.

Below is an interview DREAM conducted with Naijada (Nai Nai), one of our Mentor-in-Training interns. Do not be deceived by short responses, however; for Nai Nai is a young lady imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit. After DREAM, she envisions herself attending university to major in economics.

Javier: How did you hear about DREAM?

Nai Nai: I heard about DREAM from a friend. My friend worked at DREAM, she told me about it, and so I was interested, and I started DREAM

Javier: What does DREAM mean in your life?

Nai Nai: DREAM kicked me out of a lot of trouble, because without DREAM, I’d probably be out in the streets doing things I shouldn’t be doing.

Javier: What’s the biggest change in your life that DREAM helped you with?

Nai Nai: DREAM made me want to be a better person. It made me tell myself, ‘I can do better.’

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Nai Nai (right) speaks with fellow Westpark MiT, Armani, shortly before the unveiling ceremony

Javier: What is the most important aspect about mentorship?

Nai Nai: The most important thing about mentoring is communication. If you can communicate with your mentor, it gives the mentee something to trust, to talk to them about things. That way, you know there will always be someone to help you and talk to you!

Javier: What do you like about local adventure trips?

Nai Nai: They create an opportunity for me to communicate with my mentor. And also, just sharing the experience with everybody. Because every time we go somewhere, to everyone it is new, so sharing that experience with everybody is fun.

Javier: What are your plans after DREAM?

Nai Nai: I’m finishing school

Program Snapshot: K&K

When we asked Koya to reflect on her experience with us, she simply said, “DREAM made me, me.”  From our perspective—the staff and mentors—this opens with meaning the importance of being the organization “Directing through Recreation, Education, Adventure, and Mentoring.” In Philadelphia, this approach takes on added importance, for the city has made recent budget cuts, “eliminating art, music, and athletic programs.” Tragically, this limits the opportunities for their education, failing to expose them to the joy of learning while playing, or finding pride in their communities through sports. At DREAM, we present an alternative to kids based on our Village-Mentoring model, knitting together universities and communities to create one family.  

As part of our Mentors-in-Training internship, Koya, and her sister, Kyah, also benefit tremendously from the other components of DREAM. Through the years, they have grown to be committed and reliable partners for our youth, being an irreplaceable presence in our weekly programming activities—partnering with kids as trusted mentors and serving as leaders in our local and regional trips. “We help them build on their everyday lives. We help them talk about their stress. It gets them off the streets from being bad,” Kyah remarked about the importance of DREAM in children’s lives.

Two years ago, Koya and Kyah embarked upon our first college road-trip. Until that moment, they were both intimidated by the prospects—and indeed, the possibility—of receiving a post-secondary education. “Before our college road trip, we would just hang out, throw a ball around.  When I went to those colleges, I said: I need to get this (high-school) diploma to get this. Hold up!  Now I know what I need” Koya said. She hopes to be a professional veterinarian one day, and we’ve continued to support her by organizing civic service activities at animal shelters.

We’ve also been the organization that has strengthened the sisterly bond between Koya and Kyah. “I think that it’s great to have a sister in DREAM.  I get to work with her inside and out of DREAM.  We bump heads, but then I see her in DREAM and I got to put my argument to the side,” they sheepishly admitted. In the process, however, they’ve gained other sisters too, like “Aloni and Jas and Maya and Flannery.”