Some children know how to catch dreams.
Dream Catcher is the name of the summer program at Susan Moore Elementary School in Blount County. Children enjoy a healthy breakfast and lunch, as well as academics that prepare them for the upcoming school year. Fun activities like music, art, movement and dance, and water and sun safety are also included.
“The students in this program all have four classes each day, a healthy living class, a reading class, a math class, and an enrichment class that rotates,” said Mitchie Neel, executive director of the Blount County Education Foundation (BCEF). “It includes art on Monday, science on Tuesday, Wednesday is music day, and PE on Thursday. On Fridays we have guest speakers and other fun activities.”
The students have to commit to the BCEF program for six weeks. They are the ones who could benefit the most from such a program in both healthy living and academics. Dream Catcher provides breakfast and lunch sponsored by the school board’s “Summer Feeding Program.” The two meals are provided for the students at Susan Moore Elementary School, as well as other schools in the area.
“In an urban setting, a child can walk down the sidewalk to get to school, but in a rural setting, there’s a transportation issue. Parents are working and can’t drop their kids off for breakfast, pick them up, and drop them back off for lunch. They need a place where their kids can stay and have activities,” Neel said.
The Alabama Power Foundation supports the Dream Catcher summer program through Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL), a partnership between 11 funders dedicated to supporting summer learning opportunities in Alabama. This year SAIL awarded 37 grants to Alabama schools and nonprofits. Dream Catcher was supported by three SAIL partners: Alabama Power Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and United Way of Central Alabama.
The Alabama Power Foundation was founded in 1989 and supports more than 700 organizations across the state each year. Since its inception more than 25 years ago, the foundation has awarded more than 20,000 grants to Alabama nonprofits, education institutions and community organizations.
BCEF has had the mission of promoting academic excellence in local schools since 1998. More than $1.5 million has been awarded to various projects in area schools. These programs include classroom grants, tutoring, summer camps, library enhancements, the Scholars Bowl program, the Spelling Bee, the Young Authors Conference, and many more.
“It’s so exciting to be a part of the program. When I was in the lunchroom every morning this week, I saw the faces of students and teachers witnessing the results of their hard work,” Neel said. “My job as executive director is to look for grants and to make these things happen, and boy, when it comes together with this kind of success, it makes me feel amazing.”
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “dream catcher” as a “traditional North American Indian artifact consisting of a hoop strung with a loose net or web and decorated with beads, feathers, etc.” According to legend, if you hang a dream catcher over a child’s bed, it allows the good dreams to pass through but protects the child from nightmares.
At Susan Moore Elementary School in Blount County, Dream Catcher does much more than legend; it feeds the bodies and minds of hundreds of children and prepares them for a better tomorrow.