Daring to DREAM
Many great success stories began with a dream. However, achieving success also requires having a vision of how to make a dream become reality. WHEDA’s vision is to provide the tools to help people and communities realize their hopes and dreams. To foster this vision and build an ecosystem of greater economic opportunity, WHEDA partners with many different types of organizations to help communities grow and thrive. One organization WHEDA has partnered with is Operation DREAM in Milwaukee. Rodney Bourrage, founder and CEO of Operation DREAM, started the organization using the pillars of Discipline, Respect, Education, Appreciation, and Mentoring.
Founded in 2006, the DREAM program encourages boys and young men, primarily of color, to ask themselves what it means to be successful. Students ranging from kindergarten through high school engage in activities and programs that are targeted to expand their learning. One of those programs includes Operation Work, which prepares young men in grades 7-12 for the world of employment and puts them on a path toward leadership. The program provides students with opportunities such as classroom education, job shadow experience, and lessons related to practical life skills. At the completion of the program, the young men will have a high school diploma, driver’s license, successful employment experience, entrepreneurial training, a bank account, and short- and long-term goals - ready to hit the workforce!
In 2016, WHEDA used fees from the New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) placed through the Greater Wisconsin Opportunities Fund to provide the DREAM program with an Entrepreneurship Training Grant of $100,000. The grant funds allowed the program to accept even more students than the year prior. Between 2015-16, program attendance jumped nearly 40%, from serving 60 students in 2015, to 84 in 2016. With the growing success of the program, this financial contribution allowed Operation DREAM to expand opportunities for boys and young men in the Milwaukee area.
By daring students to dream about their futures, Operation DREAM guides the men and boys it serves toward economic success and empowerment. Operation DREAM prepares students for the hard questions of tomorrow while challenging them to create and achieve aspirational goals that help build a stronger community.