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Students Build a Better Tomorrow Through Dream Builders Program

This is the first year the Dream Builders Program awarded all of its participating students a $1,000 scholarship at awards night, totaling $32,000 in scholarship dollars for the program's 13th year.
On April 7, a surprise awards night was held for the Dream Builder's Program—part of the Jim Burke Education Foundation. At the ceremony, 32 participating students each took home a $1,000 scholarship to help fund their post-high school Education. In addition, each team—sponsored by local businesses Aera Energy LLC, Bank of the Sierra, Bright House Networks and Dignity Health - Mercy and Memorial Hospitals—were awarded $250 to be donated to a charity that impacted their project. The top-earning effort, titled "You're Worth More," came from Team Bank of the Sierra, and was given an additional $250 to be donated for its "Best in Class" designation.

    "It was so close," Program Director Mikie Hay said of the competition. "Every year I'm always impressed but this is the first time when all four team projects really left a legacy in terms of impacting the community."

    The students from the winning project—which also took the award for community impact—created a website, video, public service announcement, classroom activities and a resource website to educate students, parents and the community about cyber-bullying.

    The curriculum was created to be easily repeatable in hopes it will continue to impact Kern County and beyond.

    "I think what set this one apart was just their level of passion for it," Co-director Elizabeth Hay said of the winning team. "I think it's because they chose something that affected them… they were firm in the reason of why they chose this project."

    Other projects took on skin cancer awareness, childhood literacy and the importance of kindness. The last one created a curriculum adopted by students in both Kern County and Missouri, thanks to the wide reaches of the Internet.

    Now in its 13th year, the Dream Builders Program exists to instill students with a sense of service over self, teaching them not only why it is important to care about the community around them, but also how they can leave a lasting impression in their own backyard.

    "It was a gift to my father Jim Burke as a way to thank him for making a difference for so many students in Kern County," Mikie explained.

    "All of the projects this year were probably in total the best I've had the pleasure of supporting," Elizabeth added.

    While the yearlong program has since finished, May marked the beginning for a new class of participants. The selection process starts with participants from 17 schools in the district. They fill out applications and Burke Auto selects 8 to 12 students from each school to interview. From the approximately 200 applications submitted, about 130 applicants are interviewed. Then 50-55 students come back for an ice cream social where they are judged on team building activities and 32 are invited to participate in Dream Builders.

    "It's a long process, but it's always inspirational," Mikie said. "Working with outstanding young students is always inspirational because I know they're going to be the leaders of tomorrow."

    Students are paired with peers from neighboring schools so the summer starts with bonding activities to get everyone acquainted. By November teams must submit a final topic for their project, and from January to March, the real work is done.

    While Elizabeth said her and Mikie help coach the teams in bi-weekly meetings, the ideas are all from the teams. "They are given the challenge of identifying a community need and coming up with a significant community service project to meet that need," Mikie said. "If they come up with the idea on their own, they pursue it a little more passionately," Elizabeth explained.

    Not only do students garner a better sense of their community and how to make a difference and volunteer, they also learn how to write press packets, mission statements, media advisories, elect treasurers and secretaries, take meeting minutes, collaborate with others and stay on task.

    At the end of the year, they create Power Point presentations to present to a panel of four to five judges made up of community leaders. This becomes the award night presentation on which they are judged.

    "We are trying to teach them real life experiences," Elizabeth said.


Alexis Adjei - Liberty; Lucas Solis - Highland; Jordian Hunter - Foothill; Neal Mathew - Centennial; Veena Narashiman - Stockdale; Garrett Andrew – Garces; Aaron Wan – East; and Payton Yee – BCHS


Chandler Beck – Stockdale; Julia Castro – Centennial; Ethan Francis – North; Kaylee Holland – East; Gabriel Torres – Independence; Jordan Holmes – Highland; Ryan Morosa – Liberty; and Noelle Pardo – BHS


Andrew Aleman – Highland; Shawn Hill – Independence; Madeline Kuney – BHS; Libby Otten – Liberty; Cameron Reeves – BCHS; Nicollette Sanchez – East; Brock Simpson – West; and Brittany St. Clair – Stockdale


Chandler Basconcillo – Liberty; Fahad Molla – Centennial; Lexi Gibson – Frontier; Cassidy Grimsley – BHS; Garret Kingsbury – BCHS; Andrew Paradise – Stockdale; Jesus Perez - Mira Monte; and Grace Prall – West

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Tags: Education, Enrichment, Featured Story, Tweens & Teens

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