For Adam Rosenberg ’16, volunteering with Kids With Dreams, an organization whose main purpose is to connect Stanford students with people with disabilities, has created a revolutionary experience for him and his buddy, Noah, 19.
“He’s kept me sane at Stanford,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg explained that he was paired with Noah after joining the organization almost three years ago. Noah has struggled with a disability due to breaking his spine at birth.
“I joined [Kids With Dreams] as a freshman, not really knowing how to handle all the pressures of this school, but it was really great to just go and hang with this guy a lot [in the buddy program recently],” Rosenberg said. “[Noah] can’t really move, but [he is] super emotive, super loving, super caring. He just appreciates everything and loves everyone. He’s just a total sweetheart.”
Bianca Quintanilla ’17, who has volunteered for the buddy program since the spring of her freshman year, has had a similar experience with her 10-year-old buddy. Quintanilla became close friends with her buddy by hanging out with her almost every week, talking together over the phone and eating out with her and her family. Last Thanksgiving break, Quintanilla got a chance to go to Disneyland for the first time when her buddy’s family invited her to join them.
“The buddy program has been very rewarding because I’ve become friends with someone whom I otherwise would not have met,” Quintanilla said. “And I’m learning how to be a friend in a different kind of friendship — one that’s more intentional.”
Rapid growth in the program
The buddy program in Kids With Dreams was launched during winter quarter last year and has grown popular in a short time, reaching over 100 participants this year, according to Whitney McIntosh ’17, one of the founders of the buddy program.
“Having a program… actually fostering long-term relationships with people… I think that’s really [needed] in social service programs in general,” McIntosh said.
In addition to the drama and buddy programs, Kids With Dreams provides volunteers with a variety of options based on their interests and intended level of commitment, and students can get involved with the group at any time of the year. Adel Andemeskel ’17, who struggles with making time for volunteering around her heavy workload, found the Special Skaters program convenient and rewarding at the same time.
In addition to skating, drama, soccer, baseball, dance and swimming programs, Kids With Dreams recently started a music program, in which a group of children come to Hillel to learn about playing instruments from Stanford students every Sunday from 2 to 3 p.m.
According to Noah Golub ’18, the founder of the music program, anyone who is willing to work with kids and who wants to have fun doing so can volunteer for the program, and prior experience with music is not required.
For many Stanford students, Kids With Dreams has given them a chance to give back to the community and have fun at the same time.
Creating a strong community
Last Saturday, Andemeskel joined the Special Skaters program and skated with her buddy for the first time.
“[At the end of the event,] he brought up the hand that I was holding up to his face, and he actually gave my hand a kiss,” Andemeskel said. “It was the sweetest moment I’ve ever had because it was so pure and genuine.”
According to Stephanie Sapp ’16, who joined the organization as a freshman and is now one of the co-presidents, it has been great to see how much Kids With Dreams has grown over the years.
“Something that’s so beautiful about Kids with Dreams [is] the appreciation the parents give and the overall community that you get to join,” Sapp said. “You’re forced to leave the Stanford bubble and really engage in communities beyond just being a student.”
“I think giving back to the community is really important… and Kids With Dreams is a great place to join,” Andemeskel added.
Contact Sevde Kaldıroğlu at sevde ‘at’ stanford.edu.
This post has been updated. A previous version inaccurately represented the goal of Kids With Dreams in the title. The Daily regrets this error.