The second part in a series!
BOSTON - Marena Ramirez is the Social Justice and Diversity Chair for DREAM’s Village Mentoring chapter at Orchard Gardens in Boston. She is a Northeastern University student and has served previously as a Community Outreach Chair and a Social Justice Chair. This is the role she will serve with the Orchard Gardens program as it evolves and grows. While less common amongst DREAM chapters, diversity, equity and inclusion focused leadership role offers much needed education and perspective to their club. For Orchard Gardens in particular, where the vast majority of mentees have backgrounds different from the mentors, it is essential to become familiar with the ethos of these topics and to families of their mentees.
Marena serves her role by facilitating and sustaining conversations related to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) topics both specific to the neighborhood they are serving and to the country as a whole. For example, every semester she plans one or two workshops for the chapter to attend. The sessions she has planned have included an intro to diversity and inclusion, trauma-informed mentoring, and most recently a session on gentrification in the local Orchard Gardens area. She also created her own channel within the club’s Slack, where she posts local events related to social justice, mental health, DEI, or other topics. When asked about how her efforts have impacted the program, Marena reflects on the conversations it starts. “I’ve seen more of an initiative with the mentors, in talking about these things or asking questions…For example, the most recent presentation about gentrification in Boston, I left more time at the end than I usually do and that actually ended up turning into a really awesome conversation where we were able to plan out actionable items that we can take as a chapter for our community.” Some of these actions are to start tutoring the mentees outside of scheduled DREAM mentoring time, and to create a newsletter with resources and relevant news to distribute to the Orchard Gardens community. “Since I started this role, I feel like honestly the conversation has gone from nothing to having a conversation, to thinking about these things and actually starting to create plans.”
Marena's efforts at her Orchard Gardens chapter are beginning to have a positive impact. Most importantly, the efforts have included her fellow mentors and the community of mentees and families they serve, so the efforts reflect the hopes of all involved. The chapter hopes their conversations and model can be an inspiration to other DREAM chapters.
If you are interested in speaking to a member of the Orchard Gardens chapter about their work, you can reach out to DREAM at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can connect you!