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Dream Up Program Teaches Local Kids about Dream Jobs

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tamera Hill, left, and Jazlyn Banks

Seventh-grader Michael Raymer knows what he wants to be when he grows up: a video game designer.

"I like video games, and I like creating stuff," Michael said. "I just want to do what I like to do and then get a lot of money for it, too."

Fashioner designer, engineer, plastic surgeon — nearly all the middle schoolers at the Dream Up workshop fantasize about what they'll be when they grow up. Yet few know what it takes to become a plastic surgeon or how fashion designers spend their days. Dream Up, which launched its pilot workshop in Lafayette this week, aims to help children fill in that blank.

"I know what I want to be," Michael said. "But I want to know more so I know what I'm getting into."

Students spend the first week of the three-week program learning about themselves and the careers they could pursue. They take personality and aptitude tests. They talk about what college and vocational school are like.


During the second part of the program, which runs over summer break, students will leave the classroom. Some will be paired with mentors in the field they're interested in, while others will go on group trips to schools and businesses.

After the students settled in Monday morning, counselors split them into groups to talk about what they could do after high school — from going to college to joining the military to volunteering. The program isn't designed to push students toward a specific field or career path; it's about helping them figure out their strengths and interests.

"We definitely want exposure to college, but it's not for everybody," said co-founder Jennifer Rostami, an MBA student at Purdue University. "If you really don't want to go to college but you love tinkering with cars, you want to be a mechanic, then let's help you dream up in that dream. We will try to connect you with somebody who owns a mechanic shop or owns a dealership."


Rostami designed Dream Up with Lucy Turek, a master's candidate in counseling at Adler University in Chicago. If the pilot is successful, Rostami and Turek hope to launch Dream Up programs around the world, beginning next year in three cities where they already have supporters: Paris, Detroit and Newport, New Jersey.

For the pilot, Rostami and Turek partnered with United Way of Greater Lafayette. United Way is funding the program, which will cost $18,000, including about $6,000 in startup funds. The nonprofit also helped connect Rostami and Turek with Tecumseh Junior High School, where they found 20 students to participate.

Although Laura Carson, the finance and community impact director at United Way, doesn't expect middle school students to settle on a career for the rest of their lives, she hopes the program will help them imagine a future worth working toward.

"Some kids are into art, some kids are into band or sports or things like that. And a lot of kids don't have those kinds of things that get them excited and get them engaged," Carson said. "Having drive, having hope, having a goal is really important."