All posts by lyjen8

Dream a Better Dream

My internship at DREAM (formerly Harlem RBI) was so much more than I could have ever imagined. Not only did I fulfill all of my goals that I had set at the beginning of my internship, but I’ve also had so many different experiences that have opened my eyes to new perspectives. My biggest goal this summer was to develop and hone my resource development skills. The fact that DREAM was a mid-sized non-profit organization in New York City did wonders for my development skills.

Many of DREAM’s donors were corporate donors that required clear and consistent communication skills, as well as the ability to improvise because their schedules were often changed at the last minute. For example, we had a Blackstone volunteer event that was originally scheduled to be held in Central Park, but on the day of the event, the heat index was too high for the players to be outside. Our baseball and softball coordinators were always prepared for the weather, so my supervisor and I had already contacted prior to coming into the office, to ensure that an alternative schedule was in place for the players and the volunteers. Thankfully, Blackstone was very flexible with the change and things went according to plan. My time at DREAM equipped with the necessary skills to think on my feet and improved my written and verbal communication skills, which were heavily relied on for this particular event.

I was also able to network with a variety of different people at DREAM. From the High School Campus Culture Director to the Director of Community Engagement and Government Affairs, I was able to collect a plethora of new information. I learned from DREAM staff as well as DREAM participants. During my weekly site visits to the East Harlem and South Bronx sites, I was able to interact with the players. I began to slowly, but surely form bonds with the on-site staff members, as well as the participants and when my time was up at DREAM, it was hard to say goodbye. This summer, I made an important decision regarding my academic career at Tulane and future professional career. My unique experiences at DREAM had inspired to change majors from Political Science to Anthropology with an emphasis in Linguistics. I had originally planned to teach in New Orleans for at least several years before heading off to law school to study education policy. But

This summer, I made an important decision regarding my academic career at Tulane and future professional career. My unique experiences at DREAM had inspired to change majors from Political Science to Anthropology with an emphasis in Linguistics. I had originally planned to teach in New Orleans for at least several years before heading off to law school to study education policy. But because I had some incredible and insightful teachers for roommates, as well as my lessons at DREAM, I decided to pursue a career I was more passionate about. I am confident and motivated about my future. I want to study linguistics so that I am more equipped as an ESL certified teacher to serve my students.

Being located in East Harlem and providing programming South Bronx, two heavily diverse areas, I was able to learn more about productive and sustainable community engagement. Having learned these skills, I was able to transfer them to my work as an Ignite EXPLORE OC at Tulane. Ignite is an EXPLORE program that strives to connect first-year students the available resources here at Tulane, as well as people within our New Orleans community. During Ignite, we touch on various social justice issues in New Orleans while on our service and learning experiences. Because I had learned community engagement skills from DREAM, I was able to facilitate meaningful conversations and discussions with my participants and encourage them to pursue sustainable, impactful, and collaborative efforts with community partners. In Ignite, we heavily emphasized that participants should not be entering communities with the mindset that know what is best for the community and its residents, but instead they should enter these communities with the mindset that our community partners and the residents are the experts, and we must learn to listen before we attempt to provide help. This work not only catalyzes their leadership potential, but it also strengthens Tulane’s relationship with the New Orleans community.

As I had previously mentioned in my other blog posts, DREAM provides participants with 4 hours of social emotional learning (SEL) programming every week. This programming is critical for it does not reinforce the toxic patriarchal standards and stereotypes that are currently present in our society. This programming allows children to simply be children, but to also recognize the impact of their actions. SEL programming provides the necessary tool for healthy emotional development in impoverished areas. Some topics that were discussed in SEL programming was respecting regarding each other’s identities and gender stereotypes and how they can impact our identities. It is important to note that these conversations were not watered down conversations, but conversations that were designed for the age level that it was being delivered to. Examples of gender stereotypes and its effects were examples that rising 4th and 5th graders could understand. For instance, an example of a gender stereotype that was provided was if a player had told one of his teammates that they hit “like a girl.” The on-site social worker explored the various consequences of that term and by the end of the discussion, students were confident in their understanding of respect and the negative impact of gender stereotypes. Tackling these issues and conducting important dialogues such as the ones at DREAM ensure that we are raising a generation of inclusive members of society.

My advice to female-identifying individuals looking to pursue in the non-profit sector is to prepare yourself for the long journey ahead. Non-profit work is not easy work and often times, the change we would like to see does not occur in a timely manner. Be resilient, be a catalyst for change, and be unwavering. We are strong and we are leaders. Success is what YOU define it as and it is important to not place a monetary value on the work you may accomplish at non-profit organizations.

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Halfway There

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.

“Life is a series of failures and mistakes and opportunities to learn.”

My name is Jenny Ly and I am a rising sophomore from New Orleans, Louisiana. I am majoring in Political Science as well as pursuing a Secondary Education Teaching Certification in Social Studies, English, and ESL. This summer, I will be interning at the non-profit organization, DREAM, in East Harlem, NY as a Major Gifts Intern where I will be assisting the Major Gifts department to prepare for the upcoming campaign season by assembling presentation materials as well as collaborate with coworkers to strategize plans to secure major donors. These procured funds will help fund day to day operations, as well as an assortment of other programs such as the DREAM Charter School. One of my other responsibilities will include communicating with various departments in order to create a monthly newsletter for current and potential donors.

DREAM’s mission is to provide underserved youth with opportunities to learn, play, and grow through baseball and softball. Their goals are to use the power of teamwork to teach, coach, and inspire the youth of the community to strive for success and to follow their dreams. I believe the work and efforts that DREAM is continually trying to achieve are extremely admirable, as well as necessary to bridge the inequity gap in many of the communities that they operate in. Baseball and softball are typically classist sports for white players stemming from middle to upper-class families. DREAM provides an opportunity to not only diversify the potential pool of professional players and thus diversifying the league, but it is also an opportunity for team and leadership building. These skills are essential in the realm of academia as well as the job force and will provide these students with tools to succeed.

Although DREAM is incapable of dismantling the sexist confines of baseball and softball by itself, it makes a continuous effort to empower girls and cultivate their leadership skills by offering co-ed teams, which are at the core of Newcomb College Institute’s mission. As self-identifying women, I’m sure many of us have faced some sort of obstacle in our paths to success in male-dominated fields. But we have shown exemplary leadership skills as well as grit and resiliency on our pursuits to success, as exemplified by our involvement with Newcomb College Institute. We must reflect on the opportunities and experiences we have been exposed to that have molded us into the powerful and unwavering women we are today and ask ourselves: shouldn’t every woman be offered those same opportunities and experiences? Those qualities and self-confidence are just some of the qualities in which DREAM strives to instill in its participants seeing as they are not presented with the same opportunities for growth and development.

DREAM recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and to celebrate, they filmed a video (which can be found here) that encompasses their core missions and values in five minutes and 42 seconds. And in those five minutes and 42 seconds, I knew that DREAM was the place for me to be this summer.  My five learning objectives for this internship are 1. To further develop and hone my resource development skills. 2. Improve my verbal and written communication skills. 3. Learn more about community outreach or rather culturally responsive community outreach and best practices. 4. Learn to better adapt to unfamiliar situations or environments. 5. Expand my professional network. This summer will not only be an opportunity to expand and fine tune my professional skills, but it will also serve as an educational opportunity, seeing as I hope to someday become an educator.

It has taken me 18 hard years to learn the lesson of failure and how I can transform my failures into opportunities to learn and I believe that my work with DREAM this summer will continue this lesson. As I attempt to unpack just to pack again for the internship, I sit and contemplate about this incredible journey I am weeks away from embarking on. I am excited and simultaneously nervous about where this summer will take me, but I am ready for it nonetheless.