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A Mentor's Perspective - Orchard Gardens

A mentor’s perspective on their chapter, what they love about DREAM and why they are successful. The first post of a series!

BOSTON - Jacob Shell, one of the two recruitment and outreach chairs for DREAM’s Orchard Gardens Village Mentoring chapter in Boston, described his role as having two goals: to recruit new mentors, and to provide support for any events or activities within the Orchard Gardens community. “One of our big things isn’t just, yes we’re here for the mentees, but we also are here for the community as a whole. Anything we do to better the community will also in turn better the kids within the community.” Jacob has been reaching out to them to see how DREAM can help, and last semester Jacob and some other mentors helped set up a winter wonderland event organized by the community where Santa came, and all the kids received presents. “We set up decorations and helped it run smoothly, that was really fun.”

E-board (Executive Board) members or chairs, are integral to each DREAM chapter and Orchard Gardens is no exception. “Our E-board is super, super consistent. You can rely on anyone else in the e-board to help you out if you have a problem within your position, which is really nice.” However, Jacob, a student and mentor at Northeastern University, stresses that the eight e-board members can’t run the entire club. With over thirty mentees on a regular basis and student scheduling conflicts it could be a frustrating norm for the e-board if they were to try and run the program on their own. The solution? “We have so many mentors who love this club, who want to be involved in this club, and really want to watch this club excel. So while they might not be on the e-board they are still participating in all of our fundraisers, they’re still coming every Saturday, they love to be there.” The commitment to the program is found in every member, not just those invested with a leadership position. Orchard Gardens can easily match each mentee to a mentor, and sometimes provide two mentors. The program holds elections for each e-board position, and sometimes students don’t get elected to the position they hope for. “But then, they go, ‘ok, I didn’t get it, oh well, but what can I do though? I want to do more, the reason I applied for e-board was because I want to do more, and just because I didn’t get the position doesn’t mean I can’t do more.” This is something that Jacob stresses the club encourages of their mentors. There are other opportunities for support and involvement and everyone who wants to do more can.

So where does this motivation come from? “The DREAM club is a place where people want to be. 10am on a Saturday to most people doesn’t sound really fun. They want to sleep in. They partied all Friday night, they wanted to sleep in and go to bed. But I think it’s a couple things…the e-board is really close, I feel comfortable, and a lot of people in the club feel comfortable being themselves. Being kind of weird, being kind of crazy, being kind of fun. Because, if you’re willing to spend your Saturday mornings working with kids, you're a special kind of person.” The chapter has a “be yourself” mentality, something that Jacob believes is essential for college students who feel like they can’t express themselves in other places on campus. Especially for first year students who are still trying to navigate their way through the complexities of college culture, this can be a breath of fresh air. “ You come into this club, everyone is being goofy, everyone is being wacky, and you might not know them very well but everyone is willing to put themselves on the line for you and say ‘this is me, this is who I am, show me who you are.” He stresses that while recruiting mentors, they look for a diversity of individuals. From different cultures, backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds, personalities. Everyone has a place within the program.

But also, it’s the kids. “They’re all smiles, all the time, they’re running, they're playing, they’re having fun. They like interacting with us, they like interacting with each other. No one goes ‘aw, this is stupid, aw this is lame,’ no one says that. And I think partially it’s because, we’re always all smiles, and we go, ‘what can we do for you?’...As great as we are as a club, and our culture, I think the other half of it is that these kids are absolutely amazing. They are the sweetest, nicest kids that we could’ve asked for.” And that is one of the most important aspects of the environment the mentors are able to create around each other - it is shared by the mentees and encourages them to be themselves and have fun.

Jacob Shell is the recruitment and outreach co-chair for DREAM Orchard Gardens and continues to do an amazing job there.

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