Mona Abdelghani is the DREAM Youth Service Manager for the Upper Valley. She has worked in the area for five years and often finds herself visiting the communities she manages. These are the best parts of her job. She handles a ton of administrative work as well in the office, so she relishes the chance to get outside and interact with the people around her. If her administrative work is the meat of her job, maintaining positive relationships with the community of Dartmouth, Hanover, and Windsor would be the bones.
Five years in a community is a long time in DREAM years. Not only has Mona served as a Youth Service Manager, she was also a mentee in the Upper Valley. Having moved there in the 8th grade, she was soon corralled by her friends into the group and hasn’t looked back since. Mona visits her communities on a weekly to monthly basis during the academic calendar, during the summer she is there every day. She has a special connection to the communities she works with. Sometimes when kids see her walking up, they let their parents know and other kids come to greet her. With Mona as its steward, the community where DREAM was born is still thriving. The Upper Valley chapters boasts one of the best mentor-to-mentee ratios in the DREAM Program, currently standing at around 90 mentors for 55 mentees. This kind of ratio allows for plenty of one-on-one matching that strengthens the village mentoring model.
To Mona, maintaining DREAM is maintaining its relationships. The only way to do that is to embed herself directly into the community. When it comes to recruitment, hanging up posters around the neighborhood simply isn’t good enough. Knocking on doors is better, or hosting cooking events to offer conversation. Establishing connections with the property manager is also crucial to stay updated on the community. She makes sure to meet with each property manager weekly and receives text or email updates from them regularly.
As Mona puts it, the DREAM Program is a people organization, reliant on face-to-face interactions and vulnerability. Trust is the most important ingredient, especially between families and the mentors. The only way to earn this trust is to present DREAM directly, to include families in community dinners and casual conversation, and to deliver the quality mentoring that DREAM promises to all its mentees. It is only the second year since COVID-19 hit and spread across the world, locking most behind doors and screens. Unsurprisingly, DREAM programming suffered as a result. Thankfully, things have seemed to normalize across our regions and DREAMers are back to doing what they do best.