We first met Laura in the most unlikely of places: the Ben & Jerry’s Corporate offices, where we chatted over mugs full of ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s donates space to the DREAM mentorship program, which focuses on providing role models for youth growing up in affordable housing. Laura works there as a Development Assistant, helping to expand program access to a growing number of youth, but not so long ago, they were on the other side. Laura first got involved with DREAM while living in an affordable housing community on Elm St. in Winooski, VT, where they lived from age 4 to 17.
“All of my friends lived there. It’s not the richest town, but they do a really good job of having playgrounds, and there was an unofficial soccer field by my house. I think I just think about everyone I grew up with, that’s why I really liked it,” Laura reflected.
For Laura, who has moved around a lot since leaving home at the age of 17, home means family and an eclectic community of diverse perspectives.
“Everyone [at Elm St.] is really quirky and we don’t always get along, but for the most part we all stick together and if you mess with one of us, we’re going to stand together.”
Beyond moving out of affordable housing on their own, Laura was hired by DREAM to help serve the same youth that she grew up around. They get to help provide role models for kids living in affordable housing communities. They (secretly) hope to one day become the Camp Director, which they feel levels the playing field for kids growing up in low-income homes by providing them with opportunities to grow and have new experiences that they couldn’t otherwise have.