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Dream Scholars to Include Tutoring, Life Skills for More Students
Cesar Tellez, who received the Wolverine Excellence Award this past year, describes his dream as Devan Perez looks on.
Monday, August 31, 2020


Alexia Del Rocio Rocha will take a class on medical terminology along with advanced algebra this fall to lay the foundation for a medical career after she graduates from Wood River High School.

Cesar Tellez plans to pursue an engineering degree in college so he can build things that help people.

The two students are among 43 Dream Scholars with I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho who have  received tutoring, field trips to college campuses and other venues and the promise of two years of college tuition upon graduation from high school.

A group of supporters gets an opportunity to meet the Dream Scholars.

“Without ‘I Have a Dream’ I wouldn’t be thinking about college,” said Rocha.

As Rocha, Tellez and their fellow Dream Scholars start their senior year, I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho is expanding its program. It plans to “adopt” 60 first-graders into its program beginning in Fall 2021. And it plans to offer tutoring to students who are not part of the program this year.

They’ll be known as “Dream Friends.”

Kris Stoffer also plans to offer workshops to Dream Scholars and Friends that will focus on such topics as  executive functioning, stress management, critical thinking, managing schedules, public speaking and socio-emotional skills.

Ken Lewis, in the rust-orange sweater, listens as those at his table offer feedback.

I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho launched a half-million-dollar campaign this week during a small fundraising dinner capped off by sky-high homemade carrot cake and coconut cake made by Ben Frank, who sacrificed a day of hiking and biking to contribute to the cause.

And the students who took part were only too happy to express gratitude to the supporters gathered around them.

“My mother and father didn’t get much education so they can’t help me with my school work. I would not be thinking of college if not for I Have a Dream,” said Marilyn Yohenny Giron Gomez.

I Have a Dream was founded in 1981 by Eugene Lang, a wealthy businessman who created the program to offer the students at his alma mater in Harlem an incentive to graduate from high school. The graduation rate at that school climbed from 25 percent to 90 percent.

Marilyn Yohenny Giron Gomez, Cesar Tellez and Alexia Del Rocio Rocha were among the Dream Scholars taking part in the evening.

And, since, nearly 18,000 Dreamers have been served in more than 200 programs nationally.

Ken Lewis, a Portland, Ore., businessman with a second home in Sun Valley, founded two chapters—one in Portland and the other in the Wood River Valley. While the majority of students in the Idaho chapter are Hispanic, Portland’s is largely black and the  Boulder, Colo., chapter has served a lot of Hmong children.

But no matter the population they serve, the key to success is adults who show up consistently and offer one-on-one mentoring, said Lori Canova, who worked with the Boulder chapter and now works with the national foundation.

Canova described one young man who parlayed a passion for video games into a college internship in computer programming. He is now working his dream job at Microsoft.

Lori Canova, now a part of the national I Have a Dream Foundation, describes how the Boulder, Colo., chapter started with 38 students and has since served more than 2,000 in 23-plus years next to a chart outlining the Idaho Foundation’s fundraising goals.

“He has two young children now and they won’t have to become Dream Scholars,” Canova said.

The Wood River Valley chapter started with 48 third-grade students at Alturas Elementary School, 43 of whom are still enrolled in the program.

“We hope all of them will enroll in some post-secondary program, whether trade school, vocational, or college,” said Laura Rose-Lewis, the program’s director.

The biggest challenge was middle school, said Program Director Pamela Donoso, fondly known as “Mother Superior.” Not only did the students have a tougher time dealing with emotional and social issues during that time, but the program didn’t have a space of its own. They now have a safe space to call their own in high school, she added. And the community has generously offered piano classes and other enrichment opportunities.

The students responded by recording the highest grade point average and average attendance rate of any middle school Dreamers nationwide. Five Dream Scholars went into high school with grade point averages over 3.7; 20 had 3.0 GPAs.

And two students won awards in a nationwide I Have a Dream Foundation essay contest.

 Bev Robinson is among the mentors who have stepped up.

She has been meeting Marilyn Yohenny Giron Gomez for lunch. They’ve decorated cookies and sewed face masks. And, as school starts, they’re focused on boosting Gomez’s grades.

“With COVID we can’t do a lot of things we wanted to do, but we’re doing what we can,” said Robinson.

The original Dream Scholars had the luck of the draw to be in the two classes picked for the program.  The next group of Dream Scholars will have to be first-graders at Alturas and Bellevue schools during the 2021-22 school year, and they will have to undergo an application process.

“We hope that our current Dream Scholars will help mentor some of the younger students,” said Rose-Lewis.

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