Dream Project

January 30, 2013

Reflections on an Era (An Ode to Matt Harris)

I just sat in on a meeting of a brand new group of leaders—our newest Steering Committee—and was so impressed by how deep their conversations were regarding sustainability of the program, learning and support among their college student leader peers, and innovations around our daily work. I couldn’t help but thinking about how much of these qualities were instilled or supported by Matt Harris, one of our co-founders and our Assistant Director (for the next 8 or so hours).

The student leaders love hearing about early stories of the Dream Project (pre-office space, pre-staff, pre-17-partner-schools-strong). So, we thought, what better time to tell a few of those stories on our blog, especially the juicy ones involving Matt?

The truth is, we were a bunch of precocious, indignant college students who hoped to do things better for the student generations after us. And not much has changed. We are proud of the fact that the Dream Project is still directed by the same kinds of students—those who are precocious enough to take on the roles normally assigned to staff and who are indignant enough to push through the malaise and frustration that we often confront in renewing and supporting public education.

Our first “class” was held in a small classroom in Mary Gates Hall. Our first Spring BBQ was pre-titled “High School Visitation Event” (we came up with a catchier name a bit later). We worked with 90 total high school students, and Alula, Grant and I were the high school leads, while Matt provided infrastructure and technical support in myriad ways (though we didn’t have titles for our work yet). Most of our printing happened in Matt’s living room in the house he lived in with about 6 other guys in the U-District. Our meetings were often three hours long, or longer. We learned how to turn off the lights in all of Mary Gates Hall because we were often the last people to leave the building (at or past midnight). And Matt, in particular, pulled all-nighters (and still does) to create and update our amazing database, DreamSIS, along with numerous other technological solutions that helped to legitimize our work and track our progress and success as we grew.

This isn’t really the end of an era—but it is a time of transition. Tomorrow is the last day that Matt is on our payroll, but certainly not the last day that he will impact P-20 education regionally and nationally. Once in Dream Project, always in Dream Project. Matt, we will miss seeing you around; this has been an amazing (almost) decade!

–Jenee Myers Twitchell, Director of Dream Project

A week ago, the Dream Project threw a surprise goodbye party for Matt, to celebrate his years with Dream Project, and wish him well on his new endeavors. Several mentors created this video for him. Good luck Matt, you will be missed!