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.
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.
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!