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A mentoring story about expressing care

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VT - Welcome to our Developmental Relationships Framework blog series. We will explore different elements of the framework, developed by Search Institute and utilized by DREAM mentors, Camp Counselors, Enrichment Coordinators, and staff to build deep, meaningful relationships with DREAM youth. 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. Each month, we will explore one element and tell a story of a DREAMer whose relationship was positively impacted by an adult utilizing an element of the framework.


This week we will focus on Express Care. According to Search Institute, a youth would understand their adult was expressing care if the adult:

  • Showed that they matter to them.

  • Was dependable and someone they could trust

  • Listened and really paid attention when they were together

  • Believed in them and made them feel known and valued

  • Was warm and showed them they enjoyed being with them

  • Encouraged them and praised them for their efforts and achievements


Our story starts with a 5-year-old mentee, Faith, from White River Junction, Vermont. It was Faith’s first summer participating in any of DREAM’s programs and she was signed up for Summer Enrichment, our program for mentees to bridge the gap in school over the summer and to DREAM while the Village Mentoring program takes a break. Our Summer Enrichment program offers mentees living in DREAM communities site-based activities designed to encourage competent, motivated readers, problem-solving, activities that develop healthy minds and bodies, and activities to unleash art and creative expression.


Faith had a continually difficult time each day starting the program and being picked up by DREAM staff. She would get upset very easily and needed a little extra love and care to make her days positive, fun, and successful. There was a specific moment where she was crying about not having her goggles for swimming which then made her upset that her mother was not present - she missed her mom. Julia and Erin, two of our Summer Enrichment Coordinators put their mentoring hats on and spent time with her. They listened to Faith as she talked about her feelings, and what was making her upset, and expressed belief in her that she was strong and resilient for joining us each day, away from her mom.


Julia and Erin’s actions directly displayed their care for Faith. She sat with both of them as they offered comfort and expressed how they cared and why they wanted her to participate with them. They listened and reflected back to Faith what they heard so she could comprehend that they really understood her feelings and why she was upset. This interaction laid the foundation of trust for the summer, as Julia and Erin continued to be present for Faith and expressed belief she could be independent and have fun at Summer Enrichment, even if her mom was not present.


The result: a fun and enriching summer for Faith and both our Enrichment Coordinators (Julia and Erin) and the potential of a durable, impactful, beneficial relationship for everyone!


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