Erika Isabel, an S.O.S. volunteer since 2011, is interviewing local heroes who do invaluable work to increase the peace in our neighborhood and beyond. We will be sharing these interviews on our blog. Our first feature is of D.R.E.A.M.S director, Ditashia Kahn. Read the interview below to learn about D.R.E.A.M.S. and Ditashia Kahn’s work.

1. What do you do?

We help young adults become Dedicated Responsible Educated Accountable Motivated and Self-Sufficient, the meaning of our acronym, D.R.E.A.M.S. We organize panels and housing development which brings me to D.R.E.A.M.’s philosophy, to bring other services into the community, not just to build housing. D.R.E.A.M.S. was started because we found that every time buildings were being renovated, teens were vandalizing them. So the program was created so that teens would have activities like sports, games, reading assignments, and other activities to deal with this issue. The idea was proposed to me by D.R.E.M.S. organizers who said that “more than that needs to be given to these teens” , like community service, education programs, motivation, pre-GED, and computer classes, all things that help make young people self-sufficient, and this reinvented D.R.E.A.M.S.-the organization on a whole. So, within the organization, we started Youth Build which is a construction program where teens go to work one week and are in school the other week. They’re taught:

1. Life-Skills
2. Education
3. Mandated Community Service
4. Leadership Development
5. Career and College Prep

2. What do you do that helps increase the peace?

D.R.E.A.M.S. partners with S.O.S. Crown Heights and involves people like YO S.O.S. program coordinator Marlon Peterson who did a presentation for the Art to End Violence Contest. We also participated in the 20 year anniversary of the Crown Heights riots where we were out serving and giving out information on stopping the violence in the community. We also have a program called S.M.A.R.T. which stands for Start Making a Real Transformation. This is a program that is a part of Youth Build, which is a reentry/transition program for ex-offenders by providing them with job and life readiness classes. In order to stay in S.M.A.R.T. they have to perform 300 hours of community service. Also, since the Voter Registration drive is coming up, D.R.E.A.M.S. has committed to enlisting 200 voters for the 2012 Election.

3. What can others do to join you?

We’re looking for mentors and tutors as well as clothes for our students who are going to job interviews. Anytime there’s a big service event, volunteers are more than welcome

4. What message do you have to the community?

The community has everything it needs to be great. Young people are the solution, not the problem. If they have someone to believe in them and see them as the solution, then the community can be better. This is my life’s work; I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
If you have any questions about D.R.E.A.M.S. or want to utilize their services contact:
Ditashia Kahn, MSW (Tasha)
1615 St. Johns Place Brooklyn NY 11233