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Sam Clements: Director of Development and Communication at Doors to Dream

Doors to Dream is the bridge between students and community. Their social impact projects are entirely student-run and teach high schoolers the importance of treating others with compassion. Doors to Dream is creating the next generation of inspiring leaders with their unique programming that prepares kids for a successful future.

How does Doors to Dream help dismantle the opportunity gap?

In downtown Charleston, our population has become 75% white and 25% people of color in the past couple decades. We work with Burke High School, which is 98% African American and doesn’t fit the demographics of most of Charleston. It’s a small school that gets less funding, so there is less opportunity for AP classes and clubs. We stepped in to help provide those opportunities. The segregation of schools in Charleston creates a huge gap in opportunities for students that we are hoping to change. Our programming is two-fold. We use social impact projects to teach social-emotional skills and soft professional skills, and we also utilize our network to provide upward mobility opportunities for our students through job shadowing and mentoring.

Can you tell me about your dedication to social impact projects?

Our students pick a population of people they want to help, and then we plan and execute a service project. In the process, the students are able to expand their networks and get great experience contacting donors, planning the event, and working with people who otherwise wouldn’t be in their immediate circle. They gain so much confidence from executing a project start to finish. One of our recent projects was providing playground equipment for a community center in a low-income community nearby. We had leadership from all over town come together to build a playhouse that has become a real draw for kids and families in the area. We’ve decorated low-income nursing homes at Christmas and even made a hype video to get kids excited about returning to school post-pandemic. You can tell that these kids have such big hearts and just want to help everyone they can.

What do you think makes a successful leader?

Every good leader needs to be empathetic to the people they are leading. In our service projects, the kids are learning to be empathic to those they help. Confidence is really important too. A lot of our students have been done a disservice by the school system and struggle academically. Giving them the chance to plan a project and do some good for the world helps them feel so successful and confident. Having public speaking, listening, and collaboration skills are also key. Our students make calls to local businesses, practice speaking to professionals, and build relationships with those around them.

What is the best part of your job?

There are so many great things. Seeing the joy on my students’ faces when they pull off a big event is so rewarding. The moment that they realize the event is going well, there’s a light that turns on. Suddenly, they know they are making someone’s life better because of their efforts. It’s really heartwarming to see that. They have huge potential to be agents of change in the community, and I’m glad that I get to be part of that.


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