BY: Jay MacFadge, Program Director
Javier Zurita, Development Assistant
To mark the celebration of Women’s History Month, we are reminded of the courageous women who lead our community efforts. But it is also a poignant time to consider the heroines to-be DREAM fosters through our work in Philadelphia. Nowhere is this more remarkable than in the relationship between Amanda and Faiza. They have been with us since DREAM launched in Philadelphia. Outside weekly enrichment activities Faiza, Amanda, and her mentor, Owasra hang out on weekends, watch movies together, while she has proven to be a reliable member in the fundraising activities organized by Temple students. Like all mentors in the program, Amanda–who is also the co-chair for the Cecil B. Moore site–cares deeply about our kids, but her background in secondary education lends new meaning to the Village Mentoring model.
“I enjoy DREAM because you can do more than you can with education. In the education field, it’s really important to create a wall between you and the students,” Amanda told us recently at our offices in Cecil B. Moore apartments. She added, “I can take the kids wherever I need to. I can take them somewhere I know they’ll have a good time, and not worry about being outside the boundaries of what I can do with the kids.”
According to Child Trends, a youth-focused think tank, mentoring organizations devoted to tackling different root causes of poverty performed best when tracking life changes. Under this view, they are also the most “economically efficient because, all else equal, a single program would produce multiple positive outcomes.” More succinctly, Phillip Levine, a professor of economics at Wellesley College, has argued in favor of community-based mentoring and found that “providing life guidance may be more important than providing academic guidance.”
But the most important source of empowerment comes from the mentees’ voices. While our Village Mentoring model encourages mentors to create local, regional, and high-end adventures for the kids, their true value is only reflected when it’s paired with the attention of affectionate adults. “I appreciate how [Amanda] cares and acts. For Owa, the same thing,” shared Faiza with us. She added sheepishly, “They say it. They show it.” There’s no further proof than that, according to Faiza.
With many changes approaching in Faiza’s future, there’s one thing she’s certain of. “I hope DREAM is still a program, because I’m going to come back and give back,” she said. And if you’re wondering in what capacity, then it will be to serve as a voice of justice. “I want to be a lawyer, and then a judge.”