There is a unique place where 50 second through 12th grade students can go to imagine a promising future, and Peter Otim, ’13, makes it possible through Create Your Dreams. Located on Atlanta’s west side, the organization steered by Otim, helps children living below the poverty line attain their goals.
The students come to Create Your Dreams year round in shifts—the elementary students arrive at 3 p.m., and the middle and high school kids are there at 5 p.m. Upon arrival, students are treated to a bountiful snack, then Otim creatively leads enrichment activities for the younger students and professional development for the older ones.
As the program director, his duties vary greatly.
“A major part of what I do is research to find different age-appropriate activities that would fit into our curriculum and work with each of our students,” Otim said. “Communication also has to cater to each age group. I’m communicating the exact same message to a second grader than I am to a senior, but saying it differently.”
Create Your Dreams has regular programming in the fall and spring semesters. During the summer, it offers a six-week, six-hours-a-day academic program, which is offered primarily to elementary and middle school students.
“After six hours of academics, we take them out and do fun, enriching activities because it’s summer,” he said. “During the school year, we offer art, outings, tutorials and STEM activities for this age group.”
For high school students, Otim coaches them on getting into college.
“We help them research and apply to college,” he said. “We prep them for the ACT and SAT, take them on tours at the college, help them apply for financial aid and send out their test scores. In certain cases, we pay for them to take their ACT/SAT.”
Otim also uses the liberal arts education he received at Georgia College everyday.
“I take what I learned from Georgia College and apply it to the students,” said the liberal studies major. “I learned how to critically process information. At Create Your Dreams, we try to get the kids to think, process the information and come up with solutions on their own.”
Although he is a mentor to his students, Otim recalls how his professors supported him.
“I was able to go to them whenever I needed support or to just talk,” he said. “They were always available for me. It was really nice to have that genuine supportive environment.”
Since Create Your Dreams is a long-term program, Otim has the students from when they’re in second grade until they graduate from high school. They also cater to the families’ needs whenever possible.
“It’s really nice getting to witness the kids grow and go through different stages in their lives,” he said. “From the time we get them in the second grade to the time they graduate from high school, they’re different people.”
Every day, through activities and mentorship, he leads his students one step closer toward their personal goals.
“When I came into this role my boss told me essentially that we don’t want to get the student’s hopes up throughout elementary, middle and high school. And, then they graduate, and we’re not there to support them,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way, so we have to work with them now to make sure they succeed in once they graduate from high school.”
Each year Create Your Dreams holds an honor’s celebration highlighting students who are either graduating from high school or college.
“It’s amazing,” said Otim. “For that moment, we celebrate them. They come out to share their stories and are excited about where they are doing. It feels so nice that we played a role in that and helped them through a difficult time.”
“It’s very rewarding to see some of the students, who are now doctors and are out there in the world doing their thing,” he said. “It makes you really proud of them.”
Otim wishes the best for his students while attaining their dreams.
“What I want for them is to graduate from high school and do some kind of post education that prepares them to obtain the goals and dreams they have and to move on to a career where they feel comfortable and are happy, and to live their lives the way they want, which is what we all deserve and to make improvements in themselves that will impact generations to come.”