co-founder Diane Tavenner was preaching to the choir Monday night when she spoke to the Young Dreamers group at the high school campus. Though she and the students all knew of the hardships of innovation and entrepreneurship, the students were able to better articulate their dreams for changing the world after hearing her story.
Had it not been for Tavenner’s dream for a better public education system coupled with her drive to make a charter school a reality, the Redwood City students in Room 116 would not be sharing their own dreams for changing the world.
“Convincing people that your dream can be reality is a hard thing,” Tavenner said. “But I talked to every one I knew while I was carrying around a box of pamphlets and a presentation board.”
On Monday, the Young Dreamers met for the first time since coming back from their intersession. After absorbing Tavenner’s every word of how her early struggles became success, the students provided inspirational words of their own. Every student articulated what it meant to be a “young dreamer,” small bursts of motivational reminders why each one of them was in the club.
They all aspired to change the world around them in some way.
"I Am a Young Dreamer..."
After the meeting, Valeria Sandoval excitedly hustled to the front of the class to announce her participation in a Multiple Sclerosis Fundraiser Walk. Inspired after her father suffered from the disease, she asked any interested Young Dreamers to join her team. She barely acknowledged the $300 minimum and had grand plans to raise far more than that.
President Sam Stobell is focusing on the October anti-bullying campaign. Last year, the Young Dreamers filled the as they hosted an event specifically to combat the harassment rampant in high schools across the country.
“It was something that the whole club rallied around,” he said. The club plans to lead more anti-bulling workshops at elementary and middle schools in San Carlos, Belmont and Foster City.
Sarah Fishback has utilized the group as a resource for her passions. She said she wants to be a teacher and currently tutors at the library.
“I love seeing the smiles on those kids’ faces,” she said when she teaches them something that grabs their interest. The Young Dreamers also tutor children in collaboration with Project Read at the Redwood City library.
“They are the future,” she said.
This ability to look into the future and beyond themselves is something all the young dreamers share.
“It shattered all my expectations,” Stobell said of the club when it began in 2010 with 13 members. “At the very first meeting, there was every race, gender and group. Even the ‘cool kids.’”
Dreaming a Dream
The Young Dreamers Network was founded by Brian Buntz, who originally launched the group in Guatemala, and now has oganizations in India, Ghana and Costa Rica. Buntz, a former Peace Corps volunteer, middle school teacher and business executive, then brought the idea to the Bay Area, and was financially supported by Dream Careers, an international internship program.
Buntz then had to look for a school that would accept a brand new club, but found that many other schools’ charters had more rigid rules and regulations for new clubs.
Aligned with Summit’s openness to new ideas, Young Dreamers found a home in one of its classrooms. It is now 54 members and is looking to expand to a larger space, and the club is open to all students in the community. One student from Sequoia High even makes the trek to Summit to partake in the activities.
“Anything can take place here,” said Principal Brian Johnson. “If it’s student-driven and there’s student interest, it can happen.”
Buntz meets with the students every two weeks to give them workshops and exercises that can enrich their passions and provide them with tools necessary to become stronger leaders. He alsos connect them with their fellow dreamers in Guatemala when they take a service trip to Latin America.
No matter which friend circle they may come from or what their passion is, each student is supportive of the other’s efforts.
Emily Jones recalled the “Polar Plunge” that she participated in to help raise funds for the Special Olympics Northern California. She floated the idea out to the other members and was immediately able to gather a team.
When the group selects a “Young Dreamer of the Year” in May, they will likely have a difficult time narrowing down the field of solid candidates.
But in the spirit of Summit Prep’s charter, the students themselves came up with the criteria for the student.
Several hands shot up at the opportunity to take notes. Once one was selected, the students fired away suggestions for criteria.
No matter who is chosen, the dreamers will continue to support each others’ visions for bettering their communities.
“It’s a club that I feel like I belong in,” Fishback said. “Everyone here has a passion.”
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