I am just a little over the halfway point of my internship, but it feels like I just flew in from LaGuardia yesterday. Time has gone by so quickly this summer, but my time at DREAM has been nothing short of rewarding and full of learning opportunities. The DREAM Talent staff is directly responsible for the onboarding of summer interns, as well providing us with additional support along the way. Amanda and Yerlyn, our two Talent coordinators, have made a huge effort to provide us with professional development opportunities such as a staff speaker series and speed networking.
I also have weekly check-ins with my supervisor, Courtney, who takes my goals very seriously. At the beginning of my internship, we had scheduled a meeting to sit down and discuss what exactly I wanted out of this internship. After that meeting, Courtney assigned me tasks and projects that directly correlated with my goals. For example, one of my goals was to further develop my resource development skills. My previous experience in non-profit development was a much smaller organization and my experience this summer has required me to adapt to the scale and pace of a non-profit in a city such as NYC. I have done extensive donor research, as well prospective donor research, as we embark on the beginning of the fiscal year. The one major lesson I have learned from development is that it is all about relationships. The research that I obtain on our donors and prospective donors allow our seasoned Development officers to maintain and strengthen donor relationships. At DREAM, we have a large agenda and that agenda requires a reliable revenue stream. This summer, we have expanded to a new site in Newark, NJ and we are also planning on establishing a charter high school this upcoming September.
As the summer progresses, my decision to intern with DREAM this summer is reaffirmed every day by the work I do in the Development office as well as my on-site visits with the children. Through my work and experiences at DREAM, I have recently decided to change my major to Linguistic Anthropology. I remember one of my coffee check-ins with Yerlyn where we discussed our struggles as women of color in college and in the job industry. Coming from such diverse backgrounds, we agreed that there is an increase of stress and pressure from our families to succeed. Our families view success in terms of money, social capital, and power and these things can be achieved through medical or business professions. My time at DREAM has taught me not to be afraid of failure. I am redefining success as a Vietnamese-American woman. Success is such a broad term. Success comes in many forms. Success can be becoming the first woman of color CEO at a corporate company. Or success can be a student reading below their grade level being able to correctly identify their sight words. For me, I am choosing the latter.
I am a firm believer that education is the key to success. But I am also a firsthand witness of the educational inequities in this country, as well as around the world. I have seen school systems horribly fail in educating their students and some school systems providing their students with the necessary tools and foundation for a successful future. I have seen schools that are the breeding grounds of exclusion and bigotry. But DREAM is not one of those schools. During DREAM’s classroom instructional time of their summer program, students are taught by the Clubhouse curriculum. Monday through Thursday, students and their teammates participate in social-emotional learning programming. This curriculum helps students effectively manage their emotions as well promote healthy decision making. Each week, the curriculum is centered around a DREAM value and the past week’s value was respect. Once a week during the Clubhouse hour, teams meet with on-site social workers and these social workers facilitate “Real Talk” discussions. This week’s discussion was on gender and gender stereotypes and how they can affect how students respect one another’s identities. It was incredibly rewarding and moving to be able to sit in on one of these discussions. Social workers are facilitating imperative discussions with third and fourth graders and these students are able to digest and understand the lessons.
DREAM has set the standard of education for me and as a future teacher, I will always remember my time and the lessons I have learned at DREAM. Education may be a privilege, but quality education is a right.