Like all dreams, ours was organic. Envisioned in the imagination of student volunteers from Dartmouth College, and realized in the nearby Templeton Court Apartments, DREAM (Directing through Recreation, Education, Adventure, and Mentoring) was founded in January of 1999. In November of 2001 it became an independent non-profit organization. However, we were never afraid of dreaming too big. On the contrary, DREAM kept getting bigger and bigger–first in Vermont, and soon thereafter, nationally!
Today, DREAM supports over 350 mentoring pairs spread out over 23 local programs throughout Vermont, Greater Boston area, and Philadelphia.
DREAM IS BORN
The program traces its origins to 1998 when Kathryn Ross, an AmeriCorps member, was charged with the duty of providing after-school programming for the close to 100 children living at the Templeton Court Apartments, a Section 8 housing development. Kathryn connected with students attending Dartmouth, who quickly organized themselves into a weekly mentoring program that became known as DREAM (Directing through Recreation, Education, Adventure, and Mentoring).
By May of 1999, the program consisted of more than 30 mentoring pairs who undertook bold adventures together. Over the next two years, they planned and raised money to travel to Boston, Colorado, Montreal, and Washington DC. These trips laid the foundation for DREAM’s High Adventure program. We promise our teens that they will never walk alone in life. For the trips, we designed our now famous bright yellow and blue t-shirts, so every one of us could be spotted any time. And our teens can be sure that this piece of cloth lasts far more than any single trip. Instead, it wears on you forever, because you can be sure that you can count on the support of our alumni network, including hundreds of former mentors and mentees.
TAKING ROOT IN VERMONT
Many of the original mentors graduated in 2001, and two of the graduates decided to found a non-profit organization with a vision to have loving adults be meaningfully involved in children’s lives. They wanted to provide experiences that would allow DREAM’s youth to be well positioned to achieve their dreams. That and have fun.
New programs were started with the University of Vermont, Champlain College, St. Michaels College, and nearby communities. To address the need for summer and winter programming while mentors were on break, DREAM hired interns to provide summer programs in the communities, and purchased land in Fletcher, Vermont, which became Camp DREAM. Camp offered summer and winter adventure experiences. By 2006, year-round programming provided a constant mentoring presence in the lives of DREAM youth.
GROWTH BEYOND VERMONT