By Katharina Grossman and Emily Tran.
I was Event Co-Lead along with Michael, but I think that title is slightly misleading in that everyone involved with planning is a lead of their own. It just so happens that the event-lead coordinates communication between committees, and oversees a lot of the on-going tasks. I don’t see Dream Project leadership in tiers; that may sound silly, but the entire event is more of an ensemble than anything else. I had the privilege of working with quite a few dedicated, fun people. The committee leads were so proactive and calm. Normally, it’s easy to get frantic for a big event, but even though this year we had one less week of planning (because of UW’s slightly different academic calendar), the people I worked with handled everything smoothly. I was impressed and grateful. I enjoyed working for Spring BBQ because it was a way to see the incredible blend that professional staff (Jessica), AmeriCorps service members (Amrita and Yen), and student volunteers created when working together and supporting one another.
I’ve said it a million times, but one of the many reasons I love the Dream Project is because everyone is in it for the right reasons. The potential we have increases tenfold when working in a group where your peers prioritize the same issues as you (access to education, mentorship, etc.). When people are together and working for something they truly care about, suddenly limitations disappear. The event went great. Jenee mentioned one student who was one stage who said the class lecture was her favorite part. Jenee was thrilled, because in years past that hadn’t been mentioned immediately as a highlight. I think it’s because we are picking from professors who are not only willing, but looking forward to volunteer their time to a cause as valuable as the Dream Project. These are renowned professors who care about what we care about. Again, when people who share interests work together, the outcome is just plain stronger and better. If the Spring BBQ allowed for one student to start a positive way of thinking, and a belief that they too could love college, then it was a success. Judging from my observations that day, by that definition, it was a success hundreds of times over.
When I woke up the morning of May 3rd, I knew that it was going to be a great day. The sun was shining, I found my Dream Project shirt right away (and it was clean!), and my coffee had turned out just right. So despite waking up a few hours before I normally do on a Friday morning, I was excited to meet up with the other mentors to begin our shift as Spring BBQ Tour Guides.
As we were waiting for our students to arrive in their busses, I couldn’t help but get excited. I had been to Spring BBQ three times before and each time, I left feeling like I had really made an impact on a student’s life. This year, as a tour guide, I was excited to interact with a group of students and to show them all my favorite areas on campus. I was excited to get them excited. Most of all, I wanted to show them how possible it is for them to be on this campus, and ones like it, in a couple years. By walking through the quad and listening in on lectures, students could finally put a picture to their goals and aspirations.
When the masses of students filed off the bus, I felt a small sense of panic at the sheer chaos of it all. But when I saw my group of students standing off to the side, joking around with each other, smiling and laughing, that sense of panic slowly wore off.
Our first stop was the mock lecture. Our students were already happy because we had given them snacks, and when our lecturer dropped the F-Bomb, our students were hooked. We left the mock lecture to go on our tour. The students were riled up and asking questions the entire time. They took pictures, hash-tagged the UW, and tweeted about the amazing time they were having. Even as one student complained about how much walking she had to do, so also talked about how excited she was to apply to college.
At lunch, my students scarfed down their burgers and made plans to win the dance competition. Auburn students had the most spirit out of our lunch group and I was so proud to be a part of their experience at Spring BBQ. And of course, for the second year in a row, one my students won the dance off. No big deal.
My favorite moment came when we were walking back towards the busses. I had been walking with one student, Emmanuel, the one who had won the dance competition, and we had chatted about future plans. He was the one, upon arriving at UW, who was skeptical about the whole Spring BBQ experience. He hadn’t planned on going to a four-year and wasn’t interested in learning about anything else about college. But as we walked underneath the shade of trees along Memorial Drive, Emmanuel said, very quietly, “I’ve changed my mind.” He gave me a sheepish smile and went on to say that he had such a great time at Spring BBQ, and after seeing all the amazing things we have access to as college students, he wanted to have the same experience. We parted ways after exchanging contact information.
I waved to the busses as they pulled away, feeling a little sad but mostly amazingly proud of my students. I couldn’t wait to see where they would go in life, knowing that our event had instilled in them the will to dream and aspire.