DreamWakers’ Advisory Council, known as DWAC, is a diverse group of stellar volunteers who are committed to improving and expanding the reach of DreamWakers. Each Advisor is passionate about fostering educational equity and closing the opportunity gap for students from underserved communities. Together, they serve as strategists, thought partners, and ambassadors of our collective work, tapping into their unique talents and skills in support of DreamWakers’ mission.
The 2023 DWAC cohort comprises eight dedicated DreamSpeakers who span seven states across the U.S. and work in industries like tech, finance, entertainment, and bioscience. We chatted with each of them about their insights, best advice, their dreams growing up, and more — check out DWAC 2023 below!
Senior Creative Producer at Vox Media
“Growing up in the Bronx, there weren’t many obvious career paths. As a kid, I wanted to play professional baseball, but I also knew early on that was unlikely. It wasn’t until I was about to graduate high school that I had my mind set on doing something creative for a living.
If I could talk to myself as a young man, the advice I would impart is to listen to your gut. That one very specific piece of advice probably would have saved me a little time in my growth. Learning lessons the hard way meant that those lessons really stuck with me.”
Manager, HighlightHER Brand Strategy at WarnerMedia
Fun fact: Hafsatu is an Olympic sprinter for Sierra Leone in addition to being a marketing strategist and entrepreneur!
“Something I would tell my younger self is to find your own path. When I decided I was going to pursue track and field after college, I believed there was only one way to do it because that’s what I saw everyone else do: get an agent, compete in big meets, act and talk like you’re a top athlete. After the Rio Olympics, I realized that I didn’t come from the same path as other athletes — I wasn’t running track and field my whole life; I had started my senior year of high school. I had to create my own path.”
Ester Marie Bergen
Senior Program Manager at Microsoft
“Growing up, I at first wanted to be a brain surgeon. Eventually I changed my mind and wanted to be a ballerina. Then I learned that I really enjoyed math and science, and that made me want to apply those subjects to make things like better pointe shoes for ballerinas, better makeup, better food. It was then I decided to become a chemical engineer.
Like they say in Finding Nemo, ‘Just keep swimming!’ Don’t worry too much about the could’ve, should’ve or would’ve and just keep learning and trying as much as possible!”
Senior Manager of Talent and Insight at Dick Clark Productions
“I remember knowing at some point in middle school that I wanted to work in entertainment. But in high school, I wanted a job that was guaranteed; I didn’t want a job where I wouldn’t know when my check was coming or be struggling to figure out my career. At one point, I actually landed on becoming a mortician because I knew that would always be an available job.
Advice I would give my younger self is to figure yourself out — what you enjoy, don’t like, what you’re willing to negotiate on — and use that to navigate life.” Anthony ultimately made his middle school dreams come true and has now been working in the entertainment industry for seven years!
CEO and Owner of Solution Consulting
Fun fact: Barger has been a part of DreamWakers since our founding in 2014! She mentored co-founders Annie and Monica while they were incubating DreamWakers at the University of Virginia.
“I have always enjoyed working with people and doing things to help people. I love to solve problems. When I was in high school, I taught swim lessons – I always did something to help people. When I went to college I actually got a degree to be a teacher, but I never taught! As soon as I got out of college, I got a job at a company training adults. I’ve been working and helping people ever since.”
Scientist at AstraZeneca + Founder and CEO of Aeren Waters
“Growing up, I wanted to be a pediatrician because my pediatrician was so kind, and I wanted to be like her. But when I found out how long I would have to go to school, I decided not to go that route.
I would tell my younger self not to stress out so much. Stress does not make a situation better — it clogs your arteries! Just figure out what the plan is and move with those next steps. It’s okay not to see everything far in front of you, just think about what the right next step feels like.”
Director at The Robotics, Automation, and Dance (RAD) Lab
“I loved murder mystery shows growing up, like Murder She Wrote, Nancy Drew, and Columbo, so for a long period of time I wanted to be a detective.
I’m still my younger self, and I’m still figuring out what advice I would give myself. Trying to separate internal versus external pressures is so important. I think becoming a new mom is a time when this really comes into play — there’s a whole set of external expectations and pressures, but motherhood is so personal and unique to each person and child. Listening to your internal voice about what works for you and your family is really the best thing you can do.”
Director and Team Leader at The Siegfried Group
Fun fact: Audric was born and raised in the Bahamas and is the youngest of four brothers!
“When I was younger, the best advice I got was actually from my dad. He always told me that at the end of the day, my only competition is me. He said that I can do anything I put my mind to and I just need to focus on what I’m passionate about and what I have — to be purposeful and put in hard work. No one else will do it for me. Don’t look at anyone else and what they’re doing, but focus on you and what you want to do.”
DreamWakers’ mission is to help students see what they can be, inspiring the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals in all industries. Representation matters, and we connect students across the country with career professionals who look like them, so that the youth of America can truly see themselves in the faces of their role models year-round.
Are you an educator looking to bring your lessons to life, or expose your students to new and exciting career paths through conversations with career professionals? Sign up as a DreamEducator with DreamWakers today!