West Bladen High School's DREAM Team is much more than just a group of athletes pursuing athletic endeavors. They are a team of young people learning leadership and citizenship skills by participation in service projects in the school system and community.
The DREAM (derived from Daring to Role Model Excellence as an Athletic Mentor) Team program is sponsored by the North Carolina Athletic Association. Any high school in the state can have a group of this type, according to Teresa Coleman, physical education teacher and leader of the West Bladen team.
"Some of the schools have teams that meet after school," said Coleman, "but they generally the projects they can participate in are more limited. Here at West Bladen and at East Bladen (High School), we actually offer the program as a class, which allows us to participate in a broader variety of service activities."
Coleman says the classes are funded by a grant from Student Services funds from the North Carolina Athletic Association.
She points out that membership in the DREAM program is restrictive and that students allowed to participate must demonstrate leadership potential as well as have attended a program preparing them for participation.
"The requirements for membership in the program are that they must have attended a weekend coach and captain retreat in Raleigh or a week-long summer SASI (Student Athlete Summer Institute) camp at the University of North Carolina - Pembroke," Coleman explained.
"They also must show leadership qualities and participate in at least one sport. Most are recommended for the program by coaches," she added.
She pointed out that the students on the DREAM Team came to school a day early after Christmas break to attend a six-hour training session.
The Team has participated in a number of school and community service activities during the spring semester.
It has completed two displays for the school's trophy case-one in January and another in April. The display is located in the atrium at the entrance to the gymnasium.
The group has also made public service announcements over the school's public address system throughout the semester. The announcements are about such subjects as good sportsmanship, crowd participation, and respect.
They conducted heat tests of Special Olympic athletes for 10 of the 13 schools in the county as well as for adults at Bladen Opportunities Unlimited workshop.
In another project, the DREAM Team made presentations at four elementary schools in the county-Dublin, Plainview, Bladenboro and Booker T. Washington. These presentations focused on such topics as saying no to drug abuse, respect, commitment, and sportsmanship.
They also made presentations to three middle schools-Bladenboro, Tar Heel and Clarkton School of Discovery-on high school athletics and sportsmanship.
The Team hosted an Easter egg hunt for West Bladen's self-contained special education class.
In another project that impacted the entire community, they, along with other organizations in the school, organized a team from West Bladen to participate in the Bladen County Relay For Life. Through various fundraisers, the team raised $2,984 for the fight against cancer.
"They also do a lot of little things that few people are aware of but have a big impact on the operation of the school," said Coleman. "For example, they help Guidance (department) with getting ready for testing and do a variety of activities for the principal as needed. They will be serving as greeters for the school Academic Awards Program."
Allie Nance, a junior who participates in basketball and softball and is in her second year with the DREAM Team, said the program has been beneficial to her.
"It has helped me learn to give talks in front of a group, for example," said Nance, who says she plans to remain in the program during her senior year.
Senior Erica Taylor, a second-year DREAM Team member who plays on the volleyball and softball teams, said she has also gained from her experiences as a member of the DREAM Team.
"I believe the DREAM Team has helped hone my leadership skills," she said. "I'll be going on my own next year and my experiences as a DREAM team member has helped me learn to manage my time better and to establish priorities."
Taylor plans to attend Southeastern Community College, pursuing a career in physical therapy after she graduates.
Another senior, Michael Melvin, a three-sport athlete, said the program had helped him gain confidence and self-esteem.
"I was a DREAM Team representative for eastern North Carolina to a conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, where I learned about such things as respect, values and honesty," Melvin said.
Melvin plans to attend East Carolina University next year, where he will study exercise physiology.
Coleman succinctly summed up the value of the program by saying, "The DREAM Team is much more than just another program for athletes."