Building the Dreamer Program Structure
To build the program structure for a new Class of Dreamers, and to maintain a strong and effective framework through the years, Program Directors focus on seven areas:
Dreamer Case Management
Individual case management for each of the youth participating in our programs, includes knowing the strengths and challenges presented, in each case, and, knowing their family and home environment, teachers and schools, health and wellness, and other factors in their lives.
Overall program management includes coordinating the details of logistics and integrating all core components to form the big picture of program site operations. The Program Director must design and run a program that is effective in the given environment, while maintaining alignment with the “I Have A Dream” model of programming.
Program Directors foster a community and culture for the Dreamer program that is at once unique and consistent across the network. It is important to foster, in each Dreamer Scholar, a sense of self, and a sense of belonging. Creating a “Dreamer Scholar” identity also serves to connect each to the larger community of Dreamer Scholars in the Affiliate, and then to all Dreamer Scholars, internationally.
This component refers to the content of programming, and includes methods, strategies and milestones that provide a roadmap to Dreamer Scholar success.
Collaboration and Parent/Family Programs
Program Directors are members of several operational teams that provide support and consistency across the Affiliate (with parents and caregivers, their own site team, school staff, “I Have A Dream” and larger organization, program partners, and housing and/or school administrators). PDs may initiate a Parent Committee or Council that meets monthly, elects their own leadership team, guides parent education topics, and provides program input. With this support structure, PDs facilitate a “village” of support and collaborative community for each Dreamer Scholar.
Program Staffing (managing your “Team Dream”)
Program Directors manage a core staff of AmeriCorps Members, part-time paid positions, volunteers (which include both family and other community members), and program partners.
Data & Analysis
PDs are responsible for knowing and striving to meet all performance measures related to Dreamer and Class programming success. The ED or VP of Programs leads the effort to gather the data collected by program staff, make requests of the school districts, initiate Dreamer, parent, and volunteer surveys, and collaborates with PDs, the CEO, and the Grantwriter, to ensure all compliance and reporting requirements.
The majority of “I Have A Dream” programs are either school-based or housing-based.
School-based: The Program Director’s office will be located at the school, along with space for AmeriCorps Members and any other “I Have A Dream” staff members. The PD will participate in new teacher/staff orientations, and will be treated much like a staff member in the building, with keys to appropriate access points, a mailbox, etc. In addition, the PD will work with school leadership to arrange access to classrooms and other facilities as needed for the afterschool program, summer program, and any other programming needs. Schools are often happy to share supplies and equipment such as copiers. With this approach, the Dreamer Scholars simply stay at school to participate in afterschool programming, and parents/caregivers either pick students up or alternate transportation arrangements can be made in collaboration with the school or program partners. Some IHDF Affiliates own busses or vans and employ drivers to provide transportation.
Housing-based: Local departments of housing often provide office and programming space in the housing site’s community center. The Program Director will collaborate with property and resident services managers, and will provide a tenant presence on site. Dreamers attend programming at the housing site after the school day ends. As with school-based programs, transportation can be provided by the school, a community partner, or, for IHDF Affiliates, via IHDF-owned busses or vans.
The primary difference between the two approaches is proximity to stakeholders. At school sites, program staff has greater access to teachers and school operations. At housing sites, staff have more opportunities to interact with Dreamer families on a day-to-day basis.
Parents and caregivers will be asked to sign up for a scheduled home visit by the Program Director. The PD then begins a round of home visits to gather the final pieces needed for enrollment. The primary focus of this meeting should be social, the start of a long-term relationship with Dreamers and their families. A second visit, ideally conducted before programming begins, will provide an opportunity to complete the initial interview with each Dreamer and family. Subsequent home visits should be scheduled one to two times per year.
The Program Director will be a member of the committee to plan for and implement a dedication ceremony for the new Dreamer Class. This is an opportunity for the entire community to celebrate the launch of a ten+ year collaboration to promote and support each Dreamer Scholar in achieving their dreams. The ceremony is typically held in the auditorium at the high school where the Dreamer Scholars will attend, or a central location convenient to Dreamer families. The dedication ceremony is a great opportunity for the Dreamers and their families to gather, hear the students express their goals for the future, and hear from past Dreamers and parents.