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BENNINGTON, VT - DREAM’s Village Mentoring program is special for many reasons. One of the fundamental pieces of the model is the manner in which a mentor is guided to empower their mentee through the relationship they build. This sharing of power embedded in the dynamic of the mentor-mentee relationship is one of the features that makes Village Mentoring so special and sets it apart from other mentoring programs. The Developmental Relationships Framework, established by Search Institute and utilized by DREAM mentors, identifies Sharing Power as a key element of its framework for building strong relationships that help kids thrive. The framework consists of five elements: Express Care, Challenge Growth, Provide Support, Share Power, and Expand Possibilities. Each element offers actionable, relationship-building steps that contribute to meaningful, positive interactions between kids and the adults that support them. We’re exploring one element at a time through the lens of a DREAMer and their experience.

Our story this time takes us to Bennington, Vermont to take a peek at a group of mentors and mentees who Share Power. According to Search Institute, a youth would understand that their adult was sharing power with them when:

  • They are treated with respect.

  • They are taken seriously and treated fairly.

  • They are involved in decisions that impact them.

  • They are included in goal-setting, problem-solving, and goal-attainment activities.

  • They are offered opportunities to take the lead in the relationship.

Kaylyn, a DREAM mentor in the summer, assists Channing with the repair of a garden box.

Starting in the summer, Bennington mentees who live in the Willowbrook and Applegate communities participate in our Summer Enrichment program. As part of the program, they join forces with mentors to cultivate a garden. The past two summers both communities received financial support from the Bennington Garden Club and DREAM and the sharing of power and planning began. In consultation with summer mentors, the kids planned their garden to grow vegetables they were curious to try or already enjoyed eating. Not only did they plan the contents of the garden, but they worked with community members and mentors to decide on the location of the garden, secure materials to build the garden boxes, and construct the raised beds they designed. All summer long, DREAM mentees and their mentors tend to their veggies while engaging in conversation and formulating recipes for snacks and meals that would include their harvest. Healthy concoctions were encouraged and deeper talks took place about what makes a food choice good for a body to grow and how to create and sustain positive habits in a daily diet.

The result of the activities surrounding the garden project in the summer was immense. DREAM mentees gained knowledge and perspective about their food choices and received autonomy to put their new understanding to use. The project as a whole is a tremendous example of Sharing Power and each individual element of the project generated mini-moments with multiple benefits. Mentees and mentors strengthened their relationship and trust in each other through the shared experience of setting a goal and working together to achieve that goal. Mentees were included in decisions regarding the project and received additional responsibility to care for their garden and solve problems when weather, pesky animals, and other environmental factors inevitably intervened.

Alex, a mentor coordinator during the school year with DREAM and Bennington College, collaborates with mentees Peyton and Jaylynne as they prepare their afterschool snack.

While the experience over the summer is rich, the volume of power shared with mentees continues to grow during the school year. DREAM’s Village Mentoring program, supported by students at Bennington College, reconvened in September. Each Friday, the mentors from Bennington College travel to Willowbrook and Applegate and meet with their mentees. A key component of their afterschool time together is snacks. The mentees shared their garden experience with their mentors and their newfound excitement for fruits and vegetables. While the mentors learned about the summer activities, they also worked together to clean up the gardens for the change of seasons. Additionally, mentors presented mentees with the opportunity to apply their knowledge of healthy snacking when they needed to supplement the garden with items from the store. Making snacks has become an activity each mentor does with their mentee (instead of mentors preparing snacks ahead of time). This activity has sparked deep connections and storytelling about each mentor's childhood snacks and afterschool time and the mentee’s current afterschool experiences. Now that most of the garden is dormant due to colder weather, the mentors shop for food supplies based on their understanding of what the mentees like to eat. Mentees appreciate the mentors when they arrive to make snacks and there are choices they prefer. The activities have allowed mentors and mentees to illustrate the strength of Sharing Power, as the characteristics and results are observed by DREAM staff at DREAM Fridays.

The result: the impact of Village Mentoring and Sharing Power is on display each Friday during snack time! Mentees feel valued and respected and understand they have a say in the direction of their relationship with their mentor. Mentors understand the significance of truly sharing their relationship with their mentee and are building lifelong skills and a support system for everyone.

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - As DREAM enters a new academic year, the Philadelphia region is embarking on an exciting period of expansion. DREAM currently serves four sites throughout the city and this year we plan to open an additional eight sites. Expanding our reach is a really exciting prospect for our team as we know the opportunity gap in Philadelphia is broad and youth at the sites we will serve will benefit from DREAM’s mentorship and enrichment programs.

During the summer, DREAM leadership completed an exploratory phase, pounding the pavement and scouting potential housing sites for partners. We made countless calls, sent emails, and conducted site visits to universities and low-income housing sites. We participated in community tours, driving around neighborhoods to assess their accessibility for potential college partners. We also explored the resources available in the neighborhoods and met with the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA ), private housing management, and university student life offices. Finally, we walked the neighborhoods, speaking with families and community members. The results of our efforts will manifest this Fall, as we welcome our newest sites in partnership with PHA.

Lucien E. Blackwell Homes

Over the past few years, several DREAM sites in Philadelphia have closed as a result of housing redevelopment efforts and the impacts of the pandemic. Our team has been agile and meticulous in exploring partnerships with new communities to ensure durable relationships and to make sure services to Philly’s youth continue.

Spring Garden Apartments

Over the summer, two new sites launched, offering our Summer Enrichment program to kids and families living at Lucien E. Blackwell Homes (LEB) and Spring Gardens Apartments. LEB is where many of the DREAM families who resided in Westpark (a former PHA property and DREAM site) relocated. Reconnecting with families was incredibly meaningful. We are particularly happy to be able to continue our relationship with Ms. Andrea Foster, one of our beloved advocates who supported us tirelessly at Westpark and now serves on LEB’s resident council.

We met so many new youth during our expansion this summer, broadening our community impact and strengthening our partnership with PHA. The experience really fueled our fire to keep the momentum going and kick-off activities at our other target sites. Each day, the leadership team in Philly expresses their excitement to meet new families, serve more kids, and continue to offer opportunities.

To support our growth our newest Youth Service Manager Alina Fensterer was welcomed to our team this summer! Alina previously served as a Mentor Coordinator in Northern Vermont and is deeply committed to DREAM’s mission. She brings a tenacious and hard-working but cheerful attitude to our team. During Alina’s first three months, she has prepared and added fuel to our expansion research. We are looking forward to opening our Village Mentoring program and leading a team of Mentor and Afterschool Enrichment Coordinators this year. There is a lot more to come from Philadelphia, so stay tuned to our blog and social channels!

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DANVILLE, VERMONT - Our exploration of the Developmental Relationships Framework continues with a story from our Guided Mentoring program. This time we will examine the concept of Expanding Possibilities, a key element of the framework developed by Search Institute and utilized by DREAM mentors this Fall. The framework consists of five elements: Express Care, Challenge Growth, Provide Support, Share Power, and Expand Possibilities. Each element offers actionable, relationship-building steps that contribute to healthy relationships between kids and the adults that support them. We’re exploring one at a time through the lens of a DREAMer and their experiences.

Expanding Possibilities is the subject of our story this time. According to Search Institute, a youth would understand that their adult was expanding their possibilities when:

  • They are inspired to see possibilities for their future.

  • They are exposed to new ideas, experiences, and places, broadening their horizons.

  • They are introduced to people who can help them grow, creating beneficial connections.

This story starts in the town of Danville, Vermont with a group of mentors from the Danville School. While they are the mentors, our Guided Mentoring program is multi-tiered, meaning there are multiple layers of mentorship designed into the program. Each mentor in the Guided Mentoring program has a Mentor Guide (who is often an AmeriCorps member as well). Along with our program staff, they guide the young adults attending our partner high schools, teaching them how to build relationships with an elementary-aged child and how to create positive, supportive experiences that supplement their time at home, school, and in extra-curricular activities. True to our mission, they are facilitating opportunities.

Gabrielle Tatoyian is one of our Mentor Guides who is serving at Danville School. She, along with Adrianna Watrobski (also a Mentor Guide), is supporting mentors for the second school year in a row. The two of them, together, have built relationships with many of the mentors already, but are deepening the connection while welcoming new mentors into their group. Last weekend they partnered with the DREAM mentors, participating in “Autumn on the Green,” a Danville community event similar to a farmer’s market or craft fair. The DREAMers joined over 100 other vendors operating a booth as a fundraiser for their upcoming activities with their mentees. The Danville DREAM mentors created homemade crafts like painted rocks with inspirational messages, sensory bottles, and themed signs and posters that they sold. In addition to creating their merchandise, the mentors operated the booth. They explained DREAM and Guided Mentoring to attendees, conversed with community members who stopped by to see what they were up to and sold their creations.

The booth was a hit, gaining popularity throughout the event as the most kid-friendly and a destination for a few minutes of fun. As Gabrielle and Adrianna reflected on the event, they were able to comprehend the experience the mentors were able to gain and their role. While many of the mentors were understandably timid when the project started, the fun they shared and the collaboration they engaged in while preparing for the event sparked inspiration. This was an event that was going to be fun in and of itself and it also led to insightful experiences for them and the elementary-aged mentees. The more they could sell, the more opportunities they would have for their next mentoring activity with their mentees. Additionally, this was a new experience for many of the mentors, so understanding they could work hard and earn some money to assist their community was eye-opening. The social nature of the event encouraged the mentors to socialize and share their experiences with pride, establish confidence, and expand their connections with their Mentor Guides and the community surrounding them.

The event was a success and Gabrielle and Adrianna were able to model Expanding Possibilities for the mentors, preparing the mentors to do the same for their mentees in the Spring. The whole process was a tremendous demonstration of the multi-tiered mentoring approach and the magic of our Guided Mentoring program.

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