Statistically, only one in four of these students would graduate from high school. With the help of the I Have a Dream Foundation, it will be nearly impossible for all of them not to.
The foundation provides long-term support for underprivileged students. It adopted into its program this school year 75 sixth-graders from West Preparatory Academy, 2050 Saphire Stone Ave., where nearly 90 percent of students live in poverty.
The graduation rate in the Clark County School District is 59 percent. Among at-risk students such as those at West Prep, it is about 22 percent, the foundation said.
About 85 percent of past students in the foundation graduated. The goal for this year’s class is 100 percent, said executive director Lindsay Harper.
West Prep student and September’s Dreamer of the Month Brianna Whitfield will receive after-school tutoring, mentoring, counseling and other support services through 12th grade and beyond.
“I was so excited and happy because now I get to actually become a Dreamer,” Brianna said. “Everybody knows we’re going to do great things. … I think (the foundation) is going to help me go to college and help me with all of my academics.”
Students will also take part in field trips and college visits and be asked to participate in community service projects throughout the next seven years.
The foundation unofficially started in 1981 when businessman Eugene Lang told a group of students at his former elementary school in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City that he would cover college tuition for any student who graduated high school. Since then, nearly 200 I Have a Dream programs have operated in 27 states. The Southern Nevada program was started in 1996 by co-sponsors Julie Murray and Kevin Stolworthy. The first class consisted of 65 students in kindergarten through third grade at Bracken Elementary School, 1200 N. 27th St.
Harper said this class will receive a new component to the program.
“Before, it was more academics,” Harper said. “This time, it’s going to be academics and leadership.
“We feel if we can give these Dreamers the tools to be leaders in their communities, it’s not just going to be the Dreamers we support. It will be their schools, families and neighborhoods.”
The seven-year program is expected to cost $340,000, Harper said. The 1996 class cost about $4 million during its 16-year run. The foundation helped cover tuition and other expenses for many in the first class of Dreamers who attended college, which was about half of them.
At an induction ceremony Sept. 14 at West Prep, the new class of students repeatedly was referred to as the class of 2019. At the end, they stood and recited the Dreamer Pledge —- the first thing Dreamers are taught.
“I have a dream. I am a dream. I believe in myself. My family believes in me. My teachers believe in me. My sponsors believe in me.
“My family, my teachers, my sponsors, I won’t let you down. I’m going to stay in school, work hard, study hard. I’m going all the way to college, make it big.
“I am proud to be a Dreamer. I have a dream. I have a dream.”
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at email@example.com or 224-5524.