Champions in Action: The DREAM Program

(NECN: Alysha Palumbo, Boston) - This may seem like an unlikely partnership - college students playing games with children from neighborhoods around Boston.

It was a dream of some students at Dartmouth College 14 years ago, and now it has transformed into the DREAM Program.

"It works with children living in affordable housing, pairing them up in one-on-one mentoring relationships with college students from a neighboring college," Programs Director Chad Butt said.

Northeastern University is one of 13 colleges in Massachusetts and Vermont involved in the program, which reaches children in 18 affordable housing communities throughout the two states.

"Every Friday the mentors walk across the street over into the community and pick up the youth and bring them back to the college campus and expose them to a college campus so they get used to being on a college campus and seeing it as a possibility for themselves," Butt said.

Ten-year-old Andy Vargas said, "It means to me a lot because I usually don't have to get stuck in the house being bored all day."

"We play with American Girl dolls, we listen to music, we go on trips to the children's museum," 9-year-old Delaney Walkes said.

Now the DREAM program may look like just all fun and games, but these kids here - ages 5 to 18 - are also learning while they play.

"I do math with my mentor and reading, so I learn a lot of new things," 9-year-old Kiana Diaz said.

Fourteen-year-old Caesar Cresto said, "Before I really wasn't doing good in school and they've been helping me succeed in that, so I've been doing better than I used to in school."

These college students say they get just as much out of the DREAM Program as the students they mentor.

"You really get to build an awesome relationship where they kind of look up to you and you really care about them," 20-year-old Lina Cowen said.

And these young mentors' positive influence on these kids is already making a difference and giving them goals to strive for that they may have never dreamed of before being a part of the program.

"It means a better future, it's helped me stay in school, I want to be a pro basketball player when I get older, so if I stay and behave in school I can do what I want to do when I get older," Cresto said.

"I get to study here too sometimes so I get better at school, maybe I can get a better college," Vargas said.

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