14. The DREAM Program

Winooski, VT



From the Company

Outside editors excerpted this information from the Employer Questionnaire submitted to the Best Companies Group.

DREAM pairs college student mentors with children from affordable-housing neighborhoods. These positive relationships allow children to recognize their options, make informed decisions, and achieve their dreams. DREAM accomplishes this through an innovative approach to mentoring, community development and summer programming that is complemented by a residential summer camp and an adventure-based teen program.

DREAM is a young company. More than three-quarters of the employees are under 30. This offers fresh and new ideas to an ever-changing company. DREAM often hires mentors after they graduate college to help build experience, continue their DREAM passion, and make a difference. Everyone in the office has freedom to work on personal projects for DREAM, whether it may be learning how to build a structure at camp, write grants for new cameras, or program a “barbershop” fundraiser. One of DREAM’s core values is contagious energy. We use this energy to pump up mentors for retreats, Fridays, trainings, etc. DREAM is mentor-driven and the office encourages the mentors to run their programs.

We work on college campuses to support our mentors. One may work at home if sick or if no meetings. Coffee shops, bakeries, outside, camp, or a DREAM satellite office are all places of work for DREAM.

DREAM owns a camp. Once a month, office staff participate in a camp work day. This time is used to prepare camp for our programming activities, like Winter Adventure Camp, Summer Camp, and other retreats. While at camp, staff cross country ski, swim, hike, canoe, mountain bike, and more. DREAM organizes staff ski-days, retreats that include hiking, biking, sledding, and games. DREAM also works with the mentors to create programs during the summer in our communities that revolve around being outside (e.g., sailing on Lake Champlain, and the infamous daylong beach trip to Maine).

Employees can volunteer up to two hours a week during paid work time. On MLK day, DREAM staff volunteers as a group in the community with other Americorps.

DREAM maintains a car and bus that run on vegetable oil to transport staff, mentors, and mentees. And everyone gets a bus pass!

Each employee is celebrated a number of different ways. Celebration of our work occurs on adventure-training days (days half-filled with something educational, half-filled with enjoying each other and talking about our work), and the end-of-the-year celebrations where employees are recognized. There are numerous small awards/surprises throughout the year. To help keep employees engaged, we “raid” each other. If our development director, for example, has been working hard to address and mail out all of our annual appeal letters, a few office staff may show up in crazy costumes with ice cream, a snack, or beer, and sing “I’m a maniac” to him to cheer him up and let him know what solid work he is doing.