Dreams Program at DeSales University shows area teens that a college degree can become a reality
The Dreams Program at DeSales University strives to inspire underprivileged teens for whom college is a distant thought. Through this program, middle and high school students from the Lehigh Valley area spend a week at the University to experience life in a college setting. DeSales faculty, staff, and students mentor the students to show them the advantages of attending college.
“Using DeSales students as mentors allows the teens to see college as something they can do someday if they really put their minds to it,” says Wendy Krisak, director of the Counseling Center at DeSales, who took over the Dreams Program earlier this year.
Things that fly
The Dreams Program is centered in the classroom. DeSales faculty teach Dreams students valuable lessons and skills in disciplines such as math, computer science, English, and natural sciences. By day, students learn and apply these skills in the classroom. At night, they get to experience local activities based on the program’s theme.
“Things that Fly” was this year’s curriculum theme. “In English, the students read and wrote poetry surrounding the topic of flight,” says Krisak. “In natural sciences, they learned about things like birds and airplanes and how those things are able to fly.”
Students also created and flew their own wooden planes, kites, and baking-soda-and-vinegar rockets. They took a trip to Hawk Mountain where they went hiking and attended a lecture on raptors. The week was topped off with an “etiquette dinner” where the students were treated to an all-expenses-paid dinner and taught lessons such as when to use which fork, where to place utensils, and what to do with empty sugar packets.
Helping parents and families, too
The Dreams Program assures both teens and their parents that college is an option. Because many of these kids have parents who never attended college, the amount of paperwork and applications involved can be extremely intimidating for families.
Krisak and her colleagues attempt to make the process as simple as possible and strive to show parents that, even if they did not attend college themselves, their children can. Many participants’ families view the high cost of college as another obstacle, but the Dreams Program’s goal is to demonstrate that college can be an option even for families who don’t have a large income.
Life lessons through academic activities
Although she can’t look into the future to see if participants are inspired to eventually attend college, Krisak thinks the Dreams Program is a success because it makes the students consider their possibilities. “I can say that the efforts were successful in so many ways, not just for the Dream’s students, but for me and the other DeSales mentors,” says Krisak. “Seeing the growth in these students in just one week was incredible.”
While many of the activities involved classroom lessons, the students did connect and talk with the mentors in more casual settings. At least once a day, mentors conducted reflections with the students, sometimes hidden within other activities. Mentors discussed students’ ambitions and dreams, which further allowed them to develop connections and friendships.
“It was so beautiful to hear these students sharing so much of their hearts, hopes, and dreams with us,” says Krisak. “I don’t think that any of us left the week without shedding tears.”
Although its main goal is to inspire participants to attend college, the Dreams Program proves to do much more than that. Through casual conversations and group activities, participating students not only got to experience college life for a week, but they developed meaningful friendships as well.
“By giving them this opportunity,” says Krisak, “we are showing these young students that college is a possibility for them. Graduating with a degree can be part of their future. And, dreams can come true.”
-- Bob Campbell
Press Release: DeSales University - Dreams Program 2011 | Posted on: 8/9/2011
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu