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DREAM Big For Me

Natasha Chabria, A15

“Natasha, I’m nervous,” 14-year-old Jocely says, grabbing Natasha Chabria’s hand.

“Well, hello to you too,” Natasha says with a smile. It’s Friday, the day they’ve met almost every week for the past three years. This year, however, Jocely will be walking through the imposing doors of Somerville High School for the first time and she’s “freaking out.”

But Natasha knows her “little sister” well. “Let’s look at your class schedule again,” she says patiently. The two settle in to talk about the trials and triumphs of teendom, and soon Jocely is giddy about overcoming the middle school hump.

Freshman year, Natasha saw a flyer for DREAM, a mentoring program for kids in the Somerville Housing Authority. She went on to help found the Tufts chapter. “I’ve danced since I was little,” Natasha says. “I love painting and drawing. Peace and justice studies are at the core of my studies and my life. But I never realized how much of an affinity I also have for teaching and mentoring.” Though she’s from a small town on Long Island, her passion for education is rooted halfway around the world: In India, her grandmother was one of very few women at the time to hold a college degree; her grandfather and great-grandfather were a principal and a dean, respectively. “Education is a human right. Eventually I want to start my own nonprofit that brings the arts and education to underserved youth.”

From her years with DREAM and the hours she’s spent with her advisor, Steve Cohen in the Department of Education, she knows beyond the degrees in law and education that she plans to pursue that she needs to create relationships with the community. “I can’t imagine not committing to Jocely for four years, because a lot of these kids don’t have stable home lives,” she says. “Sticking around proves that we genuinely care.”

By giving to Tufts every year, you prove that, too. “Thank you for all you do,” Natasha says. “I’m able to give back to students like Jocely because you support the programs that are the heart of my Tufts life.”

That includes summer programs, like when Natasha teaches at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School through Breakthrough, a nonprofit that places college students as teachers in Boston-area classrooms. “It’s been one of the best experiences of my entire life.” Using a national curriculum, Natasha develops lesson plans to teach literature to eighth graders. Seeing those same students during the school year when she returns for afterschool programs is a bonus. “I’m here to offer my support in whatever way I can,” she says. “You never know what’s going to make a difference for someone like Jocely: algebra tutoring or a night watching scary movies and screaming at the top of our lungs.”

Questions? Contact the Tufts Fund at  617.627.4930 | tuftsfund@tufts.edu