Story by Greg Abazorius
Photos by Genevieve Shiffrar
“I don’t believe money should ever be a limitation for anything you do in life.”
Ann-Marie Jennette believes fully in this idea. She says it as someone who helps provide opportunities for those looking to transform themselves and as someone who wholly appreciates what it’s like to be in a position without money.
From humble beginnings, she put herself through school at Wentworth and became a highly successful senior project manager for Suffolk Construction in the San Francisco Bay area. “I’m not from much. I put myself through school and found a path to pay for it,” she says. “It wasn’t easy, but I did. Not everyone can.”
But personal enrichment opportunities including extracurricular courses and workshops were not always in the budget, even for someone who had achieved her level of career success.
Last year, Jennette and good friend Mandy Ho created Dream Evolution, a nonprofit that provides financial support “for people to participate in transformational education in order to make a difference in the world.” Their “Dreamers,” as they’re known, include:
• A woman residing in Egypt who is taking mindfulness lessons she learned, translating them to Arabic and distributing them to more than 3,000 people in her community
• A 79-year-old woman who wants to take what she’s learning in personal enrichment classes and teach it to the rest of her family
• Two people who wanted to help others through physical healing who were able to take the classes necessary to become fitness and yoga instructors
The organization—consisting of seven board members—hosted various fundraising events that helped raise $30,000 in 2019 and is about to hand out an eighth scholarship.
Helping others starts with helping oneself, Jennette believes.
“There is a way to grow within our personal selves beyond the career stuff. We do better for others when we can improve who we are,” says Jennette.
Several years ago, Mandy Ho and her husband discussed leaving all their money to a trust after they die. Funding transformational education is important to the couple, and doing what they could with their savings felt like the right thing to do.
Ho recounts hearing from friends that it was a nice idea, but no one wanted to actually form a plan until she broached the idea with Jennette.
“Ann-Marie thought this was not just a nice idea, it was a necessary one. And waiting for us to die isn’t good enough,” Ho says. “She believed this was possible and achievable now, probably more than I did.”
The duo started to develop the organization in January 2018 and officially opened its doors in March 2019, with an inaugural event held that May. Scholarships have since funded Dreamers in taking various workshops, certification courses and other classes in the name of personal transformation.
Jennette knew she would be adding hours to an already demanding schedule. Having earned a Master of Science in Construction Management and a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering from Wentworth, she took a fulltime position with Suffolk Construction in Boston (her co-op employer) as an assistant project manager. Her work can be found all over Boston and Cambridge in the form of the Mandarin Hotel, the MIT Dewey Library, Liberty Mutual’s executive suites and the MassArt Tree House Residence Hall, among others.
After nearly eight years in the Boston area, Jennette headed to California to work as a senior project manager in Suffolk’s San Francisco office. 340 Fremont—a $180 million, 42-story residential building in downtown San Francisco—is one of several high-end projects she has already worked on.
“There is a way to grow within our personal selves beyond the career stuff. We do better for others when we can improve who we are.”
She notes that she loves her day job, but she also loves the gratification that comes from helping others redefine who they are.
“Dream Evolution is for people who look in the mirror and think that there’s something more for them to do, that there’s something they’re meant to teach to others,” she says. “They’re feelings that a lot of us have. These are people who are really serious about doing it.”
Looking ahead, Dream Evolution board members hope to provide scholarships to teachers.
“They are the most underpaid group of people, who have huge responsibilities and contribute to future generations on a daily basis,” Ho says.
Jennette continues to put in roughly 70 hours per week with Suffolk while also serving on the Dream Evolution
board. Despite the long hours, she is proud of the path she has taken and considers everything she does a labor of love.
“People who come out of Wentworth are among the best in the industry,” she says, “and what we grow and create doesn’t stop there.”