By Jenee Myers Twitchell, Dream Project Director
Below is a modified version of the speech I gave at the Dream Project graduation celebration on Wednesday, June 12 in the Mary Gates Hall Commons, chronicling what I’ve seen the mentor class of 2013 achieve these past four years—with support, of course, from other amazing mentors, leaders, and staff (especially AmeriCorps members).
The morning of the Dream Project graduation celebration, Dream Achieved, I came into the office to finish up the little talk I was going to give about this year’s graduating seniors, and what comes onto my Pandora? Oh, just a One Direction song—a remake of “Forever Young” (originally released by Alphaville in 1984, and a popular graduation song in the ‘90s and early 2000s). Some of the words in that song paralleled my themes for the graduating senior mentors, class of 2013: Growth, Passion, and Achievement.
UNBELIEVABLE GROWTH: “We don’t have the power, but we never say never.”
In February of 2008, before most of you stepped foot on this campus, the DP formed a relationship with a big organization, founded by the son of the woman for whom our building is named. A program officer visited us right here in Mary Gates Hall. (Because the DP class, GEN ST 391, was HELD IN ITS ENTIRETY in MGH 241. Yes, in the room where high school lead meetings are held.)
A year and a half later, as a few of you may recall, we got an email. On August 13, 2010, 2010, Kimberly Mitchell emailed us saying, “It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the family of the Gates Foundation grantees.” More than half of you in this room joined the Dream Project about two months later in the fall of 2010 or some time that following school year. Little did you know what you were stepping into that year
I give you this history to remind you of where the Dream Project was when you were all seniors in high school and freshmen here at the UW. Some of you joined right away as freshmen, and some of you found us when you were juniors or seniors, but you stepped in during the CRAZIEST three years EVER in our DP family history. YOU took us from 0 to 60 in 1 million dollars flat.
When some of you joined us in 2009-2010, we were in Johnson Hall with a max capacity of 100 mentors.100 mentors! The next year, when a whole bunch more of you joined our family, we ballooned to 200 with the help of the Gates money, and that’s when the fun began! We’re now up over 500 mentors, thanks to seniors like Devan Berkley who basically created recruitment and campus partnerships from scratch on the Steering Committee. That’s the kind of growth we continued to see for three CRAZY years.
INSATIABLE PASSION: “It’s hard to get old without a cause…”
Later on, we added Cleveland, Ida B. Wells, Rainier Beach, Youth Force, KM, Auburn, and Federal Way. You helped us go from serving the Evergreen campus as a whole to serving each of their small high schools individually. We DOUBLED the number of high schools we serve, because of you. Seniors like Vincent, Elaine, Sylvie, Lauren, and Kelsey were trailblazers at setting up new DP programming or setting up BRAND NEW high school partners or sites, forming relationships with some of the most loving and caring high school and programming staff we’ve ever worked with. At other schools in more recent years, we maintained relationships with schools, improved our work there, and attracted more mentees to ensure that the Dream Project was reaching the students who needed it most. Susan, Arielle, and Jeremy, that’s because of you.
With more mentees and more mentors came a bigger and more complex lecture—two lectures, in fact—and then two lectures and some seminars! Luke, Ryan, Dawn—you took a great course at the UW and made it into a great course SERIES. You took on the impossible task of outgrowing Kane Hall, and making DP still work!
While our lectures grew, so did our events. We served more and more students, bused more and more of them up to the UW, saw more and more of them at events throughout the region, and made things like AWW and Spring BBQ and our fundraisers literally the talk of the town. Adi, Simone, Michael, Kata, and Kristian, that’s because of you. Furthermore, we raised more money from those fundraisers than anyone could have thought—that’s because of Andy’s story of working with his mentees, and Katie and Madhu’s event and donor management savviness!
SIMPLY AMAZING ACHIEVEMENT: “So many dreams are swinging out of the blue, and we, we let ‘em come true.”
And then there was that little experiment called SATURATION. Laura, Kevin, Griffin, Olivia, and Dan—you all had to work so hard and so closely with school officials, mentors, and teachers, to make that work. It was a nearly impossible task, but we serve nearly FOUR TIMES as many students this year as we did back when you joined a couple years ago.
And all of this would have been for naught if it weren’t for our dedicated and expert mentors—those who stepped up into classroom leadership roles and those who mentored at the same high school throughout entire cohorts of students. Like the Foster High School Mentor crew—Courtney, who has dedicated three years of her UW career to mentoring there, and Allie who has supported almost two cohorts on to college, and Dawn Cheung and Erika Samson who have worked with all of the class of 2013 as they prepare now to go off to college. You’re losing a lot of seniors!
And then there’s Renton dedication, like Garrett Brown who has stepped up to leadership in the classrooms and Andrea who has spent almost two years mentoring at Renton and a couple other high schools.
And Cleveland’s crew rolls deep! You have a number of DEDICATED mentors who are graduating—Jacob, Sophia and Sobia, who have shaped the last year and a half of the program there, who all go to Cleveland events and take so much extra time out of their week to communicate with mentees.
And then there are mentors who are KNOWN for readjusting their schedule just to make sure they can mentor every quarter, some of them for over two years, like Vivian from HS3, and Tomas from Federal Way, and Miranda from KM and a couple other schools, and Georgialeen from Ingraham, and Emoniel from Youth Force. And then mentors who have been around for at least a quarter, and sometimes an entire year of their life here at UW, mentoring at a couple schools at a time while also being Spring BBQ Tour Guides and on the food crew for AWW, like Jennifer Nguyen and Patrick Gallagher (4 high schools!) and Phavy and Xinyu.
These are just a few stories of the OVER 500 MENTORS who are graduating Saturday at Century Link Field—just a snapshot of the growth, passion, and achievement you seniors have displayed and supported over the past four or five years. Seniors, in so many cases, YOU HAVE BEEN THE ONES that moved Dream Project. I have no doubts that if you could sustain that momentum here, you’ll sustain it anywhere. Don’t let anybody you work for or with tell you that your generation is anything but amazing. Don’t lose touch with us, wherever you go off to, and, as you have always done, never say never, don’t grow old without a cause, and the dreams that come from out of the blue, you, you can make them come true. Congratulations senior Dream Project mentors, Class of 2013, and happy graduation!
P.S. Check out the photos from the Dream Achieved event here.