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Dream Catchers returns for a third summer

Pictured are Worthington kids participating in the Dream Catchers program. From left: Alex Galvez, Eugenio Lopez, Saul Galvez, Oscar Galvez, Jose Michael Ventura and Maria Ventura. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Dream Catchers, a faith-based summer program for children of immigrants in the Worthington area, is back for a third year — and the kids are ready to learn.

Beginning in June, kids ages 9-15 will spend their Tuesdays on a farm south of Iona, where along with planting and growing corn, tomatoes and potatoes, they practice practical life skills such as public speaking, teamwork and leadership.

“We practice public speaking, we work on how we meet people, we learn about eye contact, firm handshakes,” said Lisa Kremer, head of Familias Juntas and coordinator of the program. “We learn about leadership and what made Jesus such a good leader. We try to draw out their talents and show them how to use them. We want these kids to make their dreams a reality.”

Certainly, these kids have their own dreams, which manifest themselves in a large variety of careers.

Eleven-year-old Maria Ventura, a two-time veteran of the program, wants to be a dentist, or a doctor. Her brother Jose Michael, 10, wants to be a veterinarian.

Seventh-grader Oscar Galvez wants to design bridges and dams as a civil engineer. His brother Alex, 10, is considering law enforcement and construction, and Saul, 9, is psyched to be a priest.

Eugenio Lopez, 14, wants to be president of the United States, although he plans on working his way up the ranks first — from state legislator to U.S. senator to attorney general — rather than jumping right into the oval office.

Over the last two summers, the kids welcomed and listened to a large variety of guests, including political leaders, pastors and business professionals. A member of Rep. Tim Walz’s staff visited, and said it was his “best experience” of the year.

“That speaks to the kids, because they make people feel welcome, they’re fun,” Kremer said.

The kids returned the favor by going out and presenting information about Dream Catchers to churches, other groups such as Early Risers Kiwanis, and strangers at the International Festival — challenging their public speaking skills along the way.

“I think it's a good program not only for my kids but all the kids growing up around here,” said Catalina, mother of Maria and Jose Michael. “For teenagers, it’s really good. They learn more responsibility and better communication with others.”

Kids in the program learn about advocacy, and what it means to get involved in their community. Lopez, entering his last year in Dream Catchers, serves as treasurer of the Worthington Middle School student council and will be involved with the WHS student council. He likes to stress the importance of working across the aisle.

“I work with other kids in the school, which I call a bipartisan effort,” Lopez said. “Sometimes you might not like them or agree with them, but you have to work with them.”

Dream Catchers is funded by a grant from the the Diocese of Winona's "Works of Justice" Fund.

An organization that works with immigrants, Familias Juntas was founded to help children meet their extended families in Guatemala for the first time. Their journey to Guatemala was the subject of the movie “Abrazos,” released in 2014.

Thirty of the program’s 36 slots for have filled up. The program could also use volunteers — they must be at least 16 years of age and pass a background check — as well as those interested in presenting about a certain topic.

Those interested can contact Kremer at familiasjuntas.mn@gmail.com.

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