At 1:30 p.m. every Friday afternoon, shouts and cheers can be heard ringing from the field behind the playground at Reaching All Minds Academy. Hidden behind the school’s busses, the boys of RAM Academy’s fifth grade class play an energetic soccer game with 6-7 college students each week. These college students volunteer at RAM Academy from Duke University and because of the passion and commitment of Dillon Leovic.
Dillon, now a junior at Duke University, has volunteered at RAM Academy since it opened in 2014. Dillon met Mr. Mckoy while in high school, as Mr. Mckoy was both his basketball and councilor at Northern High School. Dillon began volunteering at RAM the summer before the school officially opened. At that time, he helped to paint classrooms and ensure everything was ready for opening day.
Since then, Dillon’s involvement with RAM Academy has deepened. He has replaced painting projects with one-on-one student engagement. As his involvement at RAM deepened, he began to share his passion with other Duke University students. In January of this year, Dillon reached out to the members of his Selective Living group “Wayne Manor”, a collective of students who live in the same dormitories on campus. Dillon’s group began visiting RAM Academy in early January, playing outdoor games with the boys of the fifth grade class. Initially, Dillon’s group began with himself and five other students. Today, the group has grown to over 15 students participating rotationally each week. When asked why he chose to create this volunteer group, Dillon said simply: “I’m from Durham, have lived here all my life. Duke students don’t get to see as much of Durham as they should. This opportunity allows students to see the real Durham and get involved outside of the campus.”
The relationships the volunteer team has built with the students are already strong, even in the few short months since January. When asked what his favorite thing about the Duke students coming to RAM is, fifth grader Jeffery said “they’re pretty funny and fun to hang out with. I think about them like big brothers.” Sharing Jeffery’s sentiments, Gary said “they come to help us with soccer. Mostly we [used to] fight but now we have no fights. Not since they came.” Dillon and his team are working with the students to focus on good sportsmanship and teamwork while acting as positive male role models. In the coming weeks, Dillon’s team will transition from building relationships with students through sports to helping them prepare for their end of grade tests.
From everyone at Reaching All Minds Academy, thank you, Dillon, for the amazing work you’ve done to help RAM grow and to bring role models to our fifth grade students. We look forward to continuing to work with you and all of the students from Duke University!