24/7 Mentorship for Black Men
For almost 15 years, the nonprofit Operation DREAM has connected young Black males from Milwaukee with Black male mentors to increase their chances of success. According to Executive Director Marco Morrison, 98% of the young men served come from single-mother households.
“It provides the single mother household with a support system that they don’t have on a regular basis,” said Morrison. “Our mentors are really around 24/7.”
Operation DREAM provides developmental opportunities and mentoring support for over 250 boys and young men from kindergarten through high school who need positive role models.
The programs are designed around the founding values of DREAM: Discipline, Respect, Education, and Appreciation through Mentoring. One of the organization’s latest programs will be a source of income for the young men in the program.
The Mission Behind DREAM Screen
DREAM Screen is a social enterprise through Operation DREAM’s Operation Work program that will teach young men how to start their own businesses through high-quality, screen-printed products. The teens will market to organizations, businesses, schools, churches, and individuals seeking custom apparel.
Luis Vasquez will be heading the DREAM Screen program as the Business Manager. DREAM Operation acquired Vasquez’s screen sprinting business Vasquez Printing CO in late 2021, so he could share his expertise directly with the young men of the organization.
“It’s for the kids. I want to help them find what they’re passionate about,” said Vasquez.
For the last four years, Operation DREAM has hosted a two-week entrepreneurial summer camp for young men. According to Morrison, each year, 30-40% of young men want to develop their own apparel brand, which is how DREAM Screen came to be.
DREAM Screen officially became an LLC just a few months ago. The program is funded by a $100,000 grant Operation DREAM received in 2020 from Impact100.
Vasquez’s nephew and son were attending Operation DREAM when he was approached by Morrison about the opportunity. Once Morrison discovered one of the parents had a background in screen printing it only made sense to reach out to Vasquez.
“We are investing in our Black and Brown boys. “These kids are just as invested…they want an opportunity and all we have to do is give them a positive outlet.”– Luis Vasquez
Business and Life Skills
Once the DREAM Screen program is fully up and running, young men will learn fundamental business skills like customer service, manufacturing, sales, management, and more. The goal is to teach young men how to run a successful and sustainable business.
“I’m extremely excited about making sure I help kids in the community,” Vasquez said. “You don’t have to be like a Kia boy. You can own your own thing.”
DREAM Screen is currently in the build-out process. Through another set of donations, Operation DREAM will have a storefront for DREAM Screen that will be used as a training hub.
Operation DREAM is looking for plumbers, electricians, designers, and carpenters. To learn more about the program or to be involved, click here.
Nyesha Stone founded Carvd N Stone in 2017 to cover positive news while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Stone has a B.A. in Journalism. She has raised over $30,000 to award grants and scholarships. She has also been featured in ESSENCE and worked with the American Black Film Festival.