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2023 Summer Member Highlight: Kelly Gibbons

Kelly is a junior at Temple, majoring in Psychology! She has been a mentor since her freshman year and has continued with DREAM as an AmeriCorps member in the summer and as a Mentor Coordinator this academic year. Outside of DREAM, Kelly loves to bake (and has an iconic chocolate chip cookie recipe), and enjoys being social and hanging out with friends! 

Summer 2023 Wrapped: 

Kelly served a small group of 17 “Middles” (ages 8-13) with 2 other SECs at Beckett Gardens. There were 33 total youth at Beckett’s program, with 8 SECs, who the youth and Beckett staff refer to as coaches. 

What was the highlight of your service?

It was so fun going on field trips with the kids each week, and just generally getting closer to the group as a whole! When you’re a mentor and only see them on Fridays, there isn’t as much time to get to know each mentee individually and during the summer you do get that opportunity since you’re with them all day, every day. Getting to know the kids, their interests, and understanding their behaviors and responses to certain activities was such a highlight.

The trip to Camp DREAM in Vermont was really cool too! I wasn’t close with our group of teen boys until we went on that trip and had tons of time to bond together at camp. It was so special to build a more trusting relationship with them. 

Summer also definitely supported my ability to organize and support our chapter during the school year. It gave me the tools to help organize program timing, knowing the kids on a deeper level, and having a sense of activities that they’ve already done so that they can bring new and exciting opportunities to their group of mentees. 

What were the challenges you experienced?

The summer has so many ups and downs, even day-to-day. Something that our team actively worked on was operating together as a team and ensuring that everyone was sharing the load equally of planning and leading activities. 

Balancing the interests of the youth was sometimes a challenge as well, particularly because the interests across the ages of the “Middles” can vary so much. Their team was strong in always adjusting for this by providing options that were similar but catered to the variety of interests and being intentional about creating things that were requested by youth. 

Behavior management is always a work in progress, but our team did a lot of very intentional work by establishing and implementing a firm, choice-based behavioral system.

They ensured that all of the kids were aware of the hard boundaries of the space and they were consistent with consequences. We also framed it for the youth to show that their behavior is a choice and that there are options for what to do. For example, physical violence was an immediate system of going home for the day. If youth decided to make the decision to put their hands on another child for whatever reason, then their consequence was going home. And if they’re okay with that, fine! But it caused most of the youth who really wanted to be engaged in programming to stop and think about what they were going to do before reacting. This seemed to really generate a lot of emotional awareness among their group! We also set up space for the youth to be successful - like creating seating charts when there was a need for youth who tended to have trouble engaging positively together, and collectively as a group they could earn back unassigned seating. 

Are there any notable or special moments you want to share?

It was so special to get to know my mentee better over the summer and spend more time with her! She was in my “Middles” group, and we also took her and her sister on trips as a part of our mentoring relationship. 

How would you describe your DREAM experience in a phrase or a few words?

I would describe my experience as having great learning experiences, building my own personal leadership, and continuing to gain a stronger understanding of the Philly community. I have really enjoyed building up the feeling of being a part of the community and instilling a sense of belonging within the city as someone who had never been there before coming to college! 

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