Community Leadership

March 2, 2015
Rodney Bourrage, Sr. Operation Dream, Inc.

Rodney Bourrage, Sr.
Operation Dream, Inc.

Rodney Bourrage, Sr., is Founder and CEO of Operation Dream, Inc. learned that he was the recipient of the Black Excellence Award for Community Leadership, he humbly responded, “It’s a good feeling, and it feels good to be acknowledged. I didn’t know I was receiving this award until I got the letter in the mail. You see, I don’t do things for recognition I do them for the kids, for the community because I want to.” According to Rodney, Operation Dream, Inc. is a mentoring program for boys from ages 4 to 19 years old that started with 2 boys and has grown to 200 and picks up these boys and young men in 12 zip codes throughout the City of Milwaukee that provides transportation, provides food, provides free programming serving over 200 boys through a workplace program, a sports program (including soccer, baseball, basketball, swimming and tennis), a theater program, summer camp, and an academic program that runs during the school year. They start the day by picking up the boys from many different zip codes and go to a community restaurant,” Coffee Makes You Black,” where the wonderful owners feed our boys, and then Rodney and his mentors take the young men and boys down the street to “Handsome Barber Shop” where Harry and his crew trim them up. “By 9 a.m.,” Rodney said, “We head over to LaVarne Way Boys and Girls Club where we rent space and the boys meet with their mentors where the high school boys are in the work training program, they talk with their mentors about what happened in their week and any current events happening in their lives that they want to share with their mentors. Additionally, we have a guest speaker to address the older boys and have a chance for questions and answers, and they go to their jobs or visit college campuses. The younger boys also meet with their mentors and do a little marching for discipline and structure, kindergarten kids have their own curriculum, and we pair up first and second grade, third and fourth, and seventh and eighth to rotate from life skills to cultural awareness to health and fitness, then play time. At the end of the day, around 2:15 p.m., we take them home. On Sunday, we partner with University School of Milwaukee in River Hills for tutoring.” Operation Dream, Inc. has a staff of about 25 people and work from their in-kind office space located in Schlitz Park. Everything they have is donated. They have a budget that has grown rapidly and dramatically. Growing up in Milwaukee, Rodney marched with his older brothers and sisters at the young age of eight for civil rights and housing with Father Groppi. Rodney has been a part of Milwaukee’s urban community where he remembers they always had a sense of community from the preachers, the teachers, the parents, the business leaders who cared deeply and watched out for them. Even though Rodney’s family grew up poor, they always had Love from their parents. Back then, they were able to provide for their family, own a home, and buy a car whereas today Milwaukee doesn’t have those good paying factory jobs for workers and they have to go out and find the few jobs the City has and hustle a little here and there and jobs that aren’t always legal to make ends meet. “I’m definitely trying to make a difference in my community. We have to stop this vicious cycle of incarceration of Black boys and men. We have to find new avenues for educating and providing job skills for young boys and men in a difficult area that has the highest jobless rates and that doesn’t include the path to incarceration,” said Rodney