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Felix Forster ’09 (Rostock, Germany) has a strong belief in using what he has learned in the classroom to help the community around him.

The mathematics-economics major is spending the rest of his summer vacation focusing on helping teenagers in Easton become young entrepreneurs through a new student group called DreamsWork.

“Young people have many passions and talents, which they might not develop further for lack of encouragement or persistence,” Forster explains. “We hope to establish the financial and entrepreneurial basis to show them that their dreams work.”

Forster, who is president of Lafayette’s Foundation for the Awareness and Alleviation of Poverty (FAAP), founded DreamsWork last semester as an offshoot of FAAP. Through a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Easton’s new teen center, the project provides local teenagers with funding and guidance to launch and maintain small-business ideas.

A teen with a business idea will pair up with a Lafayette student mentor to form a business plan. They will then bring the plan to the DreamsWork loan committee, which is also comprised of students. If the committee decides the plan has merit, it will provide a micro-credit loan, usually under $200, in order to start the small enterprise. When the company begins to make a profit, the loan is repaid.

DreamsWork will be funded through a grant due to the generosity of Alex Morrow, owner of Saddle Valley Farm in Bangor and a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Easton’s Board of Directors. Morrow also held a number of meetings with the students to provide training about forming and presenting business plans.

“I liked the idea when Felix presented it to me and I was really impressed when I met with the group of students,” says Morrow. “They are a very diverse group and have a genuine interest in donating their time to a program that will help younger children. This is meant to teach people how to become entrepreneurs, both the teens and the students at Lafayette.”

DreamsWork’s pilot project, which will run through the summer, officially started on May 24 with an information session at the teen center. The students, who are either working on campus or taking summer classes, are currently in contact with the youth to develop the first proposals. Forster is hoping to initiate the next round of small-business proposals at the beginning of the fall term.

“DreamsWork promotes self-empowerment,” says Forster. “Even if a teenager’s project fails, he or she will have experienced the freedom to create something tangible out of a passion, the freedom to leave his or her individual mark. Hopefully, he or she will remember this when they grow up, and use lessons learned from DreamsWork to pursue further goals.”
Forster and DreamsWork have received a great deal of support on campus, working with Gladstone Fluney Hutchinson, associate professor of economics and business and vice president of the Boys and Girls Club’s Board of Directors, on the preparation of DreamsWork’s proposal.

“He was of great assistance when establishing the theoretical framework and getting in touch with the administration at the Easton Teen Center,” says Forster. “Dean [Julia] Goldberg and Bonnie Winfield, director of the Landis Community Outreach Center, also helped significantly in the process of writing the proposal.”

The proposal was mainly prepared by Forster and international affairs major Al-Amin Kheraj ’08 (Easton, Pa.), founder of FAAP, and was reviewed various times over winter break by Lafayette students in the Davis United World Scholars Program.

Forster encourages the campus community to get involved.

“DreamsWork provides the possibility for individuals and groups to pair up with teenagers and mentor them in the development of a small-business idea,” he says. “This means that W.O.R.D.S. [Writing Organization Reaching Dynamic Students], for example, could cooperate with students from the teen center in publishing a poetry book. Or the dance team could help teenagers organize their own dance performances. Any department or organization on campus can use its field of expertise to make an impact on the Easton community through their teenage counterpart in DreamsWork.”

In the future, Forster hopes DreamsWork not only continues to inspire and aid local teenagers, but will tie Lafayette, the Easton community, and local businesses together, providing better market conditions for the enterprises. There are also hopes of expansion.

“Throughout the next year, we will reach out to more youth, providing those who are motivated with funding for a business idea,” says Forster. “For now, we are working with the youth at the Easton Teen Center, which could possibly be expanded. We expect to be able to operate until the end of the academic year with the grant from Alex Morrow. By then, we will hopefully have established our network, so funding will be somewhat automated.”

Forster believes Lafayette is a positive environment for students to reach out into the surrounding community.

“Lafayette has been of great support throughout all stages of DreamsWork,” says Forster. “FAAP’s mission of poverty reduction and wealth creation was perfect to host DreamsWork. Lafayette’s community is also perfect for projects like DreamsWork. Close interaction with professors allows for constant advice, and the fact that students meet very frequently on campus promotes good communication. Due to this close connection of staff, faculty, and students, any part of a Lafayette organization is hands-on – it’s great.”

Categorized in: Students