A student works on a paper with a tutor. Art by Erin Kim. (Erin Kim)
A student works on a paper with a tutor. Art by Erin Kim.

Erin Kim

Working Towards The Dream

DreamCatchers aims to decrease the education gap within the school district

December 3, 2021

Faced with wage gaps heavily influencing students’ education and access to resources, DreamCatchers produces a solution to bridge the gap.

Educational discrepancies within the Palo Alto Unified School District have remained long standing problems, stemming from racial and financial divides within the community. 

According to 2019 CAASPP Testing results, with PAUSD having 58% and 60% of low-income students not meeting the english and math standard respectively, hundreds of middle school students are left behind the learning curves of PAUSD schools. As curriculums continuously evolve, more students may result in having problems with keeping up, due to lack of money or help available. DreamCatchers, a non-profit tutoring and support organization, has a goal of assisting low-income students, and promotes the importance of education.

“It was really hard for me, being first generation and getting my foot in the door. I feel like this program is what would help many students who are in similar situations with me of either being the first in their family to do anything and it’s a program that really needs to be out there.”

— DreamCatchers Advisory Council Member Kate Young

DreamCatchers students are able to gain from their program resources and information that would otherwise be out of grasp.

“It’s a win-win for students and tutors because the students from our program are all low income and so they don’t have many people in their family who didn’t even go to school here,” Program Manager Jessica Sanchez said. “They might not know anyone who went to high school in this area or graduated from high school.”

The community DreamCatchers fosters extends beyond the normal student-tutor relationship, establishing high schoolers as both homework helpers and mentors for each student. 

“They might not know anyone who went to high school in this area or graduated from high school,” Sanchez said. “So I think it allows them to not only be exposed to them, but also get influenced by their tutor and find inspiration with them. They’re a mentor to them that isn’t a teacher or an adult but someone who’s near their age and can give them advice on what classes to take when they’re in high school or what clubs to get involved in.”

DreamCatchers also goes one step further to support the students, taking the time to teach social-emotional skills and creating an environment all students can be comfortable in. With Wayfinder, a new curriculum that promotes social-emotional learning skills through adaptive lessons, tutors are able to focus more on the well-being of the students outside of just academics.

“They are all from different grades,” Sanchez said. “Some are from Fletcher, especially those from JLS, they don’t all know each other because one, it’s a big school, two they’re in different grades and three Fletcher students come in so they don’t know each other and this is supposed to be a third space for them outside of home and school for them to feel comfortable in. We do different kinds of games, icebreakers, things to get them to know each other and interact with one another so that they feel safe and comfortable.”

While they now hold sessions at both the JLS and Greene middle schools, their main issue still remains the inability to aid every student they can due to a lack of mainstream spotlight. 

“It was really hard for me, being first generation and getting my foot in the door,” DreamCatchers Advisory Council Program Member Kate Young said. “I feel like this program is what would help many students who are in similar situations with me of either being the first in their family to do anything and it’s a program that really needs to be out there.”

In the next year, DreamCatchers plans to expand their horizons, hosting another program at Fletcher Middle School to accommodate the additional students and to make DreamCatchers more accessible to all students, regardless of which school they attend. 

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