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Couple’s Personal Love Story Leads to Lifestyle of Service to Youth


For Mo and Dawn Sanni, serving as Family-Teachers in Boys Town Washington DC's youth residential care program is the culmination of a couple of different love stories.

Mo and Dawn met while working at Boys Town's New York site. Dawn was an Assistant Family-Teacher in the residential program and Mo worked in the short-term shelter. Both were later assigned to the Boys Town School.

Not long after, they began dating. When they later married, Mo and Dawn planned to become Family-Teachers at the New York site. But when it closed in 2016, they had to look for another opportunity to continue helping kids.

That's when they decided to move to Washington, D.C., where they fell in love with Boys Town's campus there. In 2018, the couple was hired as Family-Teachers in the site's Family Home Program.

Now they're doing what they love to do – changing the lives of young girls – together.

"Our calling is working with kids," Dawn said. "It is about fulfilling goals and passions."

"I love working at Boys Town because I love working with my wife," said Mo. "We have bumps and bruises, but she is the only person I would want to go through these things with. It's important to spend time together while doing what you love. This is the best part of the job."

As Family-Teachers, the Sannis meet the daily needs of the girls in their care, teaching them valuable social skills and how to build strong relationships with others. Those skills include practical things like shopping for groceries, budgeting for meals and cooking. But the instruction goes far beyond that, dealing with areas like self-advocacy, modern technology and women's issues. The Sannis also stress the importance of community service. For example, on weekends, the Dawn, Mo and their girls do what they call "givebacks," making sandwiches they distribute to the homeless or visiting residents of a nursing home.  

"It's amazing to see the girls have these moments of character-building, to know they have this integrity in them that they can use when they leave us," said Dawn.

Mo said the daily routine of getting the girls off to school, taking them to appointments, communicating with their families, monitoring study hours and finding time to have fun (including doing "comedy routines" during family dinners) makes working at Boys Town more than just a job.

"The Family-Teaching component is 24/7 at Boys Town," he said. "It's not like you go to work and then go home. It's all the time." 

But making a difference in the lives of young girls who desperately need a second chance and providing them with the warmth and security of a loving family is worth every moment of effort.

"Just because these children didn't come from us doesn't mean they don't deserve the same love," Mo said.

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