What Makes a DREAM?

BY: Sam Mihelich, Program Empowerment Director

Over my next few blog posts, I want to highlight how DREAM’s Core Values are incorporated into our site’s programming! Today, I’m taking a look at two in conjunction: “Contagious Energy” and “Supportive Community”. If you’d like to see the official writeup of DREAM’s Core Values, you can find that here: http://www.dreamprogram.org/about/core-values.
Our program creates a fun and attractive environment where diverse interests are encouraged and new ideas are supported. Those outside the program will sense this energy and will be drawn to DREAM.  Contagious energy perpetuates the feeling that anything is possible with a can-do attitude.
The children, parents, mentors, staff, alumni, and other supporters of DREAM are part of a single community that rallies behind individuals to help them face challenges, overcome differences, and succeed.
When I mention what I do at work, I get one of two responses. One, “Wow, that sounds like so much fun!” The other, “That’s so important. I remember how much that kind of support helped me when I was a kid.” These two responses seem opposed, but really, they encapsulate two different DREAM core values. Contagious Energy is all about the atmosphere and mood. Supportive Community is providing space and agency to have new experiences and to try new things.
Last weekend, Cecil B Moore went on a camping trip. The mentees were so excited to get out of the city, but they were also anxious about sleeping outdoors and eating over a campfire. DREAM’s high adventure trip is the perfect place to foster contagious energy and a supportive community!

If you’ve ever driven a car full of kids somewhere, you’ve felt contagious energy. We had DREAMer Mark yelling that he’s “so excited to leave Philadelphia!” and reassuring one of the younger mentees, Zaria, about being away from home. She was nervous at first, but she knew she would have fun because everyone else was keeping the mood light. I overheard Sean and Tymir talking while swapping spots in a kayak. Sean was getting out, and Tymir was about to take to the water. “How was it? Was it fun?” Tymir asked. “Yeah! It was so cool! The river is awesome!” Sean answered with gusto. The energy each child brought with them bounced off everyone else, and it allowed for new experiences and enthusiasm in learning new skills.
That enthusiasm was only possible because of the supportive community in place. It encourages the idea that anything is possible, and provides space to face challenges head on. One of the mentees was incredibly nervous about getting on the river while kayaking, and tensed up about a boat-length’s distance into the river. Each kayak was a mentor-mentee pairing, which allowed for support and encouragement through every paddle. The other kayak also came alongside them as reassuring agents, while providing time to calm down and explore this new environment. Within five minutes, they were off, with laughter permeating the air. I’m incredibly proud of our mentors and mentees for organizing this trip. At one point, Mark remarked, “I’m glad we’re by the fire. It draws you into conversation and we can listen to everyone.” His remark about camping punctuates and draws out what was already there and growing… a supportive community.

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