I have been interested in youth development since my high school days, so working with the Dream Program seemed the perfect fit.
Brian grew up in Sumter, South Carolina and recently graduated from Emory University in Atlanta with a degree in psychology and sociology. He moved to Philadelphia to become the Program Director for the DREAM Program founded by his colleague, Mike Foote, and he is working furiously to have the program take root in the city. Brian is planning to work on his masters degree at the University of Pennsylvania once he gets the Dream Program up and running in Philadelphia. Mike Foote, the inspiration for the Dream Program, is Brian's co-honoree, and they will be on the cruise together.
Brian has a big heart matched only by his abundant talent and limitless energy. In fact, Brian's volunteering goes back to high school in Sumter where he was the driving force in establishing a partnership between his high school and a local orphanage. This was a mentoring program between local high school students and children between the ages of 5-17 in the orphanage. Most of the kids were in the orphanage because their parents were in prison or had been removed from their families due to the parents' drug use of other abusive behavior. The high school students tutored the other children, helped them learn to build personal relationships, and brought them to special events. They celebrated Christmas together, and they tried to show the youngsters that there were better paths than the ones their parents had followed.
After graduating from Emory, Brian joined the Dream Program with the goal of having it take root in Philadelphia. It has proven successful in Vermont and in Boston, and now they are extending its reach. This program deals with at-risk kids from low-income families, and it gives them the social capital and life skills to thrive during and after high school. It involves the parents each step of the way, so they have partners who support them as they work with the children from elementary school through high school.
DREAM is based on building long term relationships between the youngsters and college students, and every week the kids go to the college campus that the Dream volunteer is attending. They see what college is like, meet other college students, sit in on classes, and go to sporting and other events with their mentors. The mentors tutor the kids, but mostly they offer them an experience and a set of life skills they might not otherwise receive in the housing projects. The goal is to give them the tools and the confidence to succeed later in life. Says Brian: "I love working with young people, and since I'm young myself, I seem to have credibility with them. I think this program can make a huge difference for these kids."