In the affluent Boulder County community, there are “invisible,” impoverished communities whose young people face tremendous obstacles to academic and life success. The “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Boulder County is dedicated to helping these low-income youth achieve a brighter future through a long-term, comprehensive educational and cultural enrichment program. The ultimate goal of “I Have a Dream” is to provide the youth it serves with the necessary support and trusting relationships they need to close the achievement gap with their more affluent peers and complete high school prepared for higher education and a fulfilling career. As a unique incentive, the program offers each Dreamer a four-year tuition-assistance scholarship for college or vocational school upon successful completion of high school.
Working closely with local officials and schools, "I Have a Dream" casts a broad net and does not pick “the cream of the crop” or the children most “at risk,” but instead selects 50 low-income youth from first to third grade – “Dreamers” – that have the potential to benefit the most from the program. The only criterion for selection into the program is that the student is on the federal free or reduced lunch program or s/he live in a low-income housing site. Once the 50 students are selected, a program director is hired and a learning center is set up in a school or at a low-income housing site, exclusively for use by that “Dreamer class.” The Dreamers are provided with year-round programming from the time they are sponsored in the first, second, or third grade through high school graduation, then to and through post-secondary education. They are taught at an early age that college is possible for them, and as they mature, they receive extensive career and college preparation guidance, attend numerous campus visits, and are assisted with the application process.
But "I Have a Dream" provides more than just academic enrichment to help the Dreamers achieve their academic and career goals, including social-emotional development and extracurricular opportunities. The long-term aspect of the organization provides a unique opportunity to follow the Dreamers as they progress grade level and to develop unique relationships with them and their families, creating a strong academic, social, and emotional support system. Program Directors also develop relationships with school officials, teachers, community organizations, and volunteers that open up the door for a variety of extracurricular and cultural enrichment opportunities that help the Dreamers develop skill sets that lead to future successes, both academically and personally.
Currently, "I Have a Dream" actively works with over 532 Dreamers from 10 of its 18 Dreamer classes, including 8 Dreamer classes (grades 2-12) and about 71 Dreamers in post-secondary education. The comprehensive, year-round programming offered includes one-on-one tutoring and mentoring, literacy and STEM support, computer technology training, life skills workshops, health and wellness workshops, extracurricular opportunities, parental development outreach, public achievement / service learning opportunities, and college and career preparation. In 2015, the organization celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a selection of stories and thoughts from our Dreamers, volunteers, and former AmeriCorps members.
Unique program aspects
The "I Have a Dream" program is a long-term and year-round program that works with the same group of children from their elementary school years through college.
One-hundred percent of the Dreamers are low-income: they either live in low-income public housing projects, or they are eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program at their school.
"I Have a Dream" does not pick the "cream of the crop" or the children most "at risk." Every project casts a broad net, giving each child, regardless of ability, an equal opportunity to achieve his/her academic and career goals.
"I Have a Dream" provides more than just academic enrichment to help our students achieve their dreams. We know that relationships and life skills make a crucial difference. We build a bond of trust and friendship that often makes our staff the only safe harbor in our Dreamer's stormy lives.
Dreamers are taught at an early age that college is possible for them. As they mature, they receive extensive career and college preparation guidance, visit campuses, and are assisted through the application process.
Our staff works with parents to encourage greater understanding of and support for their child's academic development. Staff serve as a liaison to teachers, counselors, and community leaders.
Productive citizenship is the ultimate measure of success and is measured individually.
"Helping Dreamers become Achievers, One Child at a Time."