Taco time

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, November 22, 2017
The West Liberty Dream Catchers held their annual Taco Dinner, Friday, Oct. 18, in the Activity Center at the Muscatine County Fairgrounds.

One of the organization’s biggest fundraisers of the year, the Taco Dinner saw hundreds come out to show their support for the West Liberty mentor program.

“We’ve had a steady flow; it’s been awesome,” said Dr. Carol Moreno. “We have more silent auction items and sold more raffle tickets than ever before.”

Carol and Ed Moreno started Dream Catchers in 2004. The Taco Dinner helps fund the $2,000 scholarships given to student members that graduate.

The real heart of Dream Catchers are the mentors that help the students, students who will be the first to graduate in their families.

“The Dream Catchers have really helped me with school,” said Trenton Polman, senior, who addressed the audience.

“Whenever I needed help I always had a mentor to go to,” he added. “The Taco Dinners helped me meet new people and interact with people.”

Around 50 West Liberty students have gone through or are going through the program. They’re chosen via teacher recommendation in third grade.

There are over 20 mentors involved with the program as well, organized by the program’s Mentor Coordinator Stephanie Martin.

One mentor, Mayra Martinez, was the first to go to college in her family. She knows the importance of good mentors and education.

“I am a really firm believer in education and a first generation immigrant student, so I relate to a lot of these kids that have that in their background,” she said.

“Hanging out with my student is the best part of my week,” she adds. “There’s all kinds of different experiences the kids get to have.”

As mentor, she does everything from help with homework to talking about the Dream Catcher’s daily life. Mentors also get involved with the families.

They’re there to help and encourage students, something they might not get on a regular basis. The ultimate goal of the program is to send those students to college.

The Taco Dinner included a silent auction and raffle. Besides the rows of tables lined with people eating supper there were also activities for children.

There was live music thanks to Davenport’s Juliana Logan, dancing from the Folkloric Dancers known as Noel Avalos, and testimonies from Dream Catchers.

All of it was run by the Dream Catchers students, from the taco line to the games. Many are willing to help the organization that’s helping them.

However, the Dream Catcher program also helps the community.

Last year it brought a summer STEM camp to West Liberty. With a focus on robotics, it was a huge success in the community.

“We’re going to bring another one here, it’s going to be more expanded, we’re going to have more robots, all kinds of neat things like that,” said Ed Moreno.

He noted that the program has partnered with the West Liberty Community School District, University of Iowa College of Engineering and the Water Association of Iowa.

Last year they were responsible for paying for and transporting the entire fifth grade class to Ankeny, Iowa, for the annual Children’s Water Festival.

They plan to do it again. They also plan to bring a Science Night to West Liberty with help from a grant from the West Liberty Foundation.

“We’re very pleased to partner with the community and thank you much for being here, we’re very proud of our Dream Catchers, parents and mentors,” said Ed Moreno.

The West Liberty Dream Catchers has become a program that seems to live both under and above the radar.

They continue to receive a lot of support from the community and its businesses, support for which they are continually grateful.

“It makes such a difference that you all come and support Dream Catchers. We are so proud of all of our Dream Catchers,” said Carol Moreno.
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