If you’ve ever wanted to see the power of mentorship in action, pay attention to the work of DREAM Alive (DA), a non-profit that serves underrepresented 7th-12th graders in Indianapolis.

Their underlying purpose is simple: Provide scholars with career-focused hands-on learning opportunities and character development through mentorship. “We’re offering boots-on-the-ground change in the community,” says Eric Müller, executive director of DREAM Alive. “We want to impact children’s lives and their future family.”

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A History of Impact

Since 2010, DA has served over 5,300 youth at Arlington, H.L. Harshman, Paramount Englewood, and Urban Act Academy middle schools. Ninety-five percent of these students are minority in ethnicity and face achievement and wealth earning barriers. Mentors meet consistently with each student and then follow the scholars to their high school. The hope is that mentorship can help remove obstacles and provide unique opportunities for connection and growth.

The DA program allows students to learn through regular meetings, where they participate in community service, mentor outings, and follow a character development curriculum. They also learn about possible career paths through visits to a selection of over 70 community partners.

“In middle school, I was definitely having a lot of depression and anxiety,” says Salma Montero, a DA graduate. “I didn’t think about my education, my future. I was kind of just lost.”

That’s when Montero’s 7th grade English teacher recommended she join DREAM Alive. Montero was partnered with a mentor, and after completing the program, is now studying entrepreneurship at the University of Indianapolis. “I want to own my own company,” she says.

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This story is not a unique one, with a 100 percent graduation rate for students who have completed DA’s 6-year program. “It’s about reaching those who are usually left out or unaccounted for and inspiring them to have a dream,” says Jodeci Byrd, DA alumnus and DA Young Professionals Board member.

Looking Ahead to the Future

DREAM Alive is growing. The non-profit recently started a lunch mentor program for Arsenal Technical High School students who were previously mentored in middle school. Volunteers meet one-on-one with students twice a month over their lunch break to coach them about their future.

DA is also currently in talks with the Indianapolis Public School (IPS) system about expanding their program to serve students in all area middle schools in the next few years. “Whether it’s 50 kids in one school or a couple thousand across the district, it’s a dream to be able to share this program with all students in the area,” Müller says.

To join in DA’s mission, people can volunteer as a mentor or give regular financial donations. Businesses can also become corporate partners to provide a place for students to visit to learn about career opportunities in different fields.

“If I hadn’t been a part of DREAM Alive, I’d probably be like most of the girls in my class … either pregnant or addicted to drugs. DREAM Alive helped me think about my future and that there’s a life outside of that,” Montero says.

For more information about the work of DREAM Alive, visit dreamaliveinc.org.

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