Student-led DREAM Chapter Aims to Empower Those with Disabilities
In the fall of 2017, a student-led DREAM (Disability Rights Education Advocacy Mentorship) chapter was established at Endicott College to foster a sense of belonging and community amongst students who experience any type of mental, emotional, cognitive, or physical hardship. Originally started at Syracuse University, Endicott has now joined several other higher education institutions across the country who have implemented DREAM chapters on their campus.
President of Endicott’s DREAM chapter, Julia Bessy ’19, shares that “Often times, students are afraid or ashamed of the label of ‘disability.’ Our goal is to create a community of students with disabilities where they do not need to be afraid, ashamed, or feel that they are judged. DREAM is a safe space for this community.”
One of the first accomplishments of the chapter? Creating a safe and comfortable environment for students with disabilities on campus. This spring, DREAM opened the “Zen Room,” offering chapter members and other groups on campus a serene space to gather, study, and do work. The Zen Room is located in the Diane M. Halle Library in room 136.
We spoke with Galatis about the DREAM initiative and the chapter’s plans for the future. Here’s what she had to say.
What is your role as the DREAM advisor?
I feel as though my role as the primary advisor of DREAM is an active one rather than a passive one. I try hard to remain informed of the group’s activities and program efforts and offer guidance when problems arise. Early on, we spent a significant amount of time clarifying leadership roles, areas of responsibilities, and their related duties. We also spent time contemplating how DREAM would make sense at Endicott and which aspects of the mission we would foster here on campus. For instance, the local DREAM chapter at Syracuse seemed to focus a lot of time and resources on the advocacy piece. Here at Endicott, the group has really focused on providing a network where students can find others struggling with medical and other issues but also while having fun and leading a full college lifestyle.
What are your goals as advisor?
I make every effort to provide guidance and advice that will empower the students to make decisions and take action. Although I have valuable insight to offer that often lends a new perspective to their discussions, I’m just a resource. In the end, DREAM is a students-championing-students organization and all of their goals and decisions need to be owned by them.
How does DREAM work on campus?
At the moment, DREAM meets bi-weekly. Each meeting has a unique theme with some meetings dedicated to interpersonal connection and others dedicated to just plain fun. We have hosted game nights, gingerbread house making, dog therapy sessions, and group trust games. The group has made an effort to offer a variety of activities so as to attract a wide variety of students.
How will DREAM benefit Endicott students?
Our main goal is to foster a sense of belonging and community amongst Endicott students who experience any type of mental, emotional, cognitive, or physical hardship. We also hope to create a positive and comfortable environment for students who may feel isolated or discouraged by this hardship. Our mission is to encourage our members to be more than their disabilities and to offer a support system on campus whenever needed.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Endicott’s DREAM chapter, contact Galatis at email@example.com.