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DEI and Culturally Aware Programming for DREAM Mentors

Hello DREAMers! Happy New Year, and welcome to the Third volume of DREAM's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Mentoring Newsletter. This set of curated resources is for you to incorporate into your lesson plans with mentees. The volume features a variety of resources from NPR, PBS, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Addressing the Events at the Capitol Personal politics aside, it is essential to either consider how your mentee made sense of the events that took place on January 6th or help them make sense of the events. The article linked below from NPR provides guides on how to have this type of discussion and some ways to help someone cope and move forward. For further guidance, see this great Instagram post by "Miss Katie Sings," a children's music educator who provides a sample conversational style to follow.

Celebrate the New Year Sharing in the celebration of a New Year can be a great way to bond with your mentee. The PBS article linked below provides a terrific summary of how some other countries celebrate. Go through some of them, and ring in the new year around the world with your mentee!

Watch Something Together CBC parenting provides a variety of resources and activities for children. Included on their website are links to five free films to teach kids about diversity. The excellently curated collection can be presented as a mini film festival for your mentees. Less than ten minutes each, after each story you can have a discussion about what was represented, what media they typically consume, and the lessons depicted.

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Welcome to the first of many stories in our new ‘Why I DREAM’ series! This series is dedicated to featuring the insights and perspectives of former staff, mentors, and mentees on their personal experience with DREAM.

Our first story comes from Kaitlyn, a former mentor. Speaking on her DREAM experience, Kaitlyn writes:

I started DREAM at about 9 or 10 years old shortly after moving into the Elm Street housing development in Winooski. Moving to the developments was a very difficult transition for me and was a real turning point in my understanding of my family’s financial situation. I became involved in every aspect of DREAM I could get my hands on, and it was such an important part of my life. Knowing that I had fun, unique experiences to look forward to every week with college kids made me feel special and gave me a sense of belonging in a time that felt confusing and overwhelming for me. I had special connections with both my personal mentors and the other mentors in the program. My parents were very loving and involved in my life, but they both worked long hours to make ends meet and having everyone at DREAM, from the mentors to the office staff, so involved in my life made a huge difference. It felt special and cool to hang out with college kids on a college campus outside of my housing community

every week.

My mentors gave me the confidence to apply to competitive programs, try out for school plays, try new foods and activities, and apply for college. Through DREAM, I got to have summer camp experiences and go on trips. I had a huge community of people in my life who I knew I could trust and who I knew had my best interests at heart. DREAM was so special to me that I ended up going to the University of Vermont, the college my mentors had gone to, and was involved in another DREAM chapter for the 4.5 years I was a student there. The families I had the privilege of getting to spend time with are some of the most important people in my life. Being a mentor was just as impactful for me as being a mentee – it made me the person I am today, and I can’t imagine who I would be if I had chosen to not continue the program after graduating high school.

I was really hit with the gravity of DREAMs impact on me about a year ago. I live in Oregon now, and the last mentor I had in DREAM lives in Northern California. My mentor was heavily involved in DREAM when I was her mentee, as was her husband. We decided to rent a cabin in the mountains and enjoy a long winter weekend with each other and our families. One afternoon in the cabin I was watching her two little children playing with my baby on the carpet and I was so overcome with how insane this whole situation was – if I had never moved into the developments and joined such a unique program like DREAM, I never would have met Jenna. I never would have met any of the mentors and staff who supported and loved me so fiercely for years. I probably wouldn’t have gone to college, and therefore would have never gotten to know the children and families I got to mentor in turn.

(Pictured: Jenna’s daughter and Kaitlyn’s son)

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Dear DREAMers,

In this unpredictable period it’s important to take time and space to process, care for ourselves, and care for each other.

I imagine, like many of you with mentees, children and young people in your orbit, you are wondering what the scenes that played out last night, in the heart of our democracy, indicate for their futures. Within this uncertainty, it feels important to reaffirm our values, and I want to reshare our commitment to you and our broader DREAM community:

DREAM is a community-based organization that values civility and inclusion. We are here to hold a safe and welcoming space for all of our community mentees and mentors, alumni, families, donors, and partners.

We at DREAM promise to continue to:

  • Create a safe space for children to be themselves and grow in peace.

  • Foster a beloved community where all people are included and respected.

  • Celebrate diversity in our community and in our world as a whole.

  • Welcome you, in dialog and action, to co-create a better future for our children.

At DREAM we believe change is possible. That said, the violent events of January 6th at the Capitol building clearly displayed our nation’s deep structural inequalities and white privilege. These wounds will not heal quickly. Yesterday's actions were harmful to many communities and it will take lots of work to rebuild a country that is equitable and safe for all. We acknowledge the difficulties ahead and we are ready to do what we can.

Dream, Mike

PS - To take specific action, we would like to offer the following two trainings and encourage you to join us. Click here to register.

How to design awesome, culturally relevant programming for youth.

As we grow to better understand and appreciate diversity, how are we using this information to inform the experiences we create for youth? Come prepared to learn and share!

January 15th @ 12:00pm

How to talk to your mentee about race.

This training contains a retrospective on coming through 2020 that has had us deal with two different types of pandemics: a health crisis and a resurgent demand for racial justice and equity in our country. How do we prepare to engage in the conversations that our mentees and their families are inevitably already having?

February 5th @ 12:00pm

Facilitator: Lawrence Alexander.Lawrence is a DE&I strategist with Carney, Sandoe & Associates. He joins DREAM this year as a consultant, providing leadership coaching and trainings, reviews of policies and practices, and support for an equity audit. Lawrence is helping DREAM “up” its game to become a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization.

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