Monday, May 20, 2019
Dreamers Beginning to See the Dream More Clearly
Cesar Tellez, Eduardo Escalera, Alecia Rocha, Devan Perez and Victor Beltran flank Board Chairman Brent Robinson as he talks about the program.
Monday, February 25, 2019


Victor Beltran was a third-grader when Sun Valley businessman Ken Lewis visited his classroom and announced that he and 44 of his fellow third-graders would be given every opportunity to go to college through the “I Have a Dream” program.

Since, he has been the beneficiary of afterschool tutoring and enrichment activities, such as field trips to Craters of the Moon national Monument. But it wasn’t until he attended a Dreamers conference in Los Angeles that the dream that Lewis had for him became his dream.

Victor stayed in a college dorm for five days, attending meetings on campus and listening to alumni from other I Have a Dream programs across the United States tell what college had done for them.

Dreamer Scholar Victor Beltran put on his best bow tie to chat with Ann Taylor.

“It changed my perspective,” said Beltran, now a freshman at Wood River High School. “Before that, I thought that college was just an option and that I could choose to go or not to go and it wouldn’t affect me in a big way. I learned then that college is important in life and I’m grateful now for the opportunity I have.”

Several Dreamers gathered recently to thank those who have contributed to their success at an appreciation party staged by DL Evans Bank at the Argyros Performing Arts Center’s Bailey Theatre

Among those present: Ken Lewis who had the vision and donated a half-million dollars to the cause after implementing an I Have a Dream program in Portland Ore.

Lewis’ desire is to make a difference in the lives of economically disadvantaged youngsters. Just seven in 10 low-income students graduate from high school, and only one of those is likely to earn a college bachelor’s degree.

I have a Dream Board Member Fred Burmester stands with Devan Perez, who won a national Dreamers essay contest.

The Dreamers in the local program will have the opportunity to have their first couple years of college or trade school paid for, provided they stick with the program.

And the class has remained remarkably intact. One student moved to Twin Falls but keeps in touch with the group. Another moved with his family to Mexico but returned to the Wood River Valley to live with his godparents so he can finish the program.

During 2018 Dreamer Scholars participated in 26 off-campus programs, including the Dream-up Conference at Loyola Marymount at UCLA, the Idaho 4-H Know Your Government Conference in Boise and a Build your Future workshop put on by the University of Idaho.

They completed 454 community service hours for local non-profit organizations, such as Mountain Humane, the Senior Connection, The Hunger Coalition, NAMI and the Sawtooth Botanical Garden.

Leslie Silva has worked tirelessly as a volunteer with the I Have a Dream program doing everything from tutoring to teaching the youngsters how to make chocolate candies to sell to raise money for a Puerto Rican school damaged by the hurricane.

They’ve been treated to a host of enrichment activities, such ski days courtesy of Sun Valley Resort,  campouts at Redfish Lake and the chance to attend a world-class soccer game in Boise.

“We even took them to a fire station where they put on firefighters’ gear and learned how hard it is to train,” said longtime volunteer Leslie Silva.

“What I like is that the program’s continuous,” said Board President Marcia Kent. “We don’t just help for a month or six months. Children need support for all their years not just for fourth grade or fifth grade.”

The Dreamers conferences that some have attended have been life changing. Devan Perez came back from Miami wanting to attend a SCAD college, which offers art and design courses that would marry his love of art and technology.

Alecia Rocha and Victor Beltran handed out cookie favors to guests as they left the party.

“I liked seeing the big buildings and people everywhere,” he said. “It was also really, really hot and the humidity was so bad.  I was happy to come back—I like riding bikes around with the group. And I like going to the Hope Garden where we learn to plant things and care for them.”

Perez won a national essay contest at the conference.

“I wrote about how different it is living in Sun Valley than Seattle,” he said. “I was born here but we moved to Seattle when I was little and there I got bullied. Here, when I came back, I found people just wanted to be friends. Here, people were not mean to me. They were all trying to be nice.”

I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho also received two national awards honoring its Dreamer Scholars for having the highest GPA and the highest school attendance among similar middle school programs.

Program Director Pamela Donoso said high school has proven more demanding, as the students are  having to learn how to manage their time.

“In middle school everyone was telling them what to do. We’re giving them tools to organize their time and we remind them every day.”

 It must be working. Seventeen of the 44 youngsters have a grade point average of 3.0 or better. And seven have a grade point average over 3.5. One has a 4.0 grade point average.

Bob Knoebel, one of the newest board members, noted how he became acquainted with an eight-year-old named Enrique Dolores when Dolores tagged along with his father when he was building a fence at Knoebel’s Bellevue home.

“He hammered and he did everything the others did. And then I heard a knock on the door. He stood there looking at me, and asked me, ‘Bob, what are you having for dinner?’ ” Knoebel recounted.

Very quickly, Dolores became Knoebel’s reason for being. Knoebel taught Dolores and a couple of his friends how to ski, then took them skiing every weekend. He took them fly-fishing. And he became Enrique’s godfather, enjoying Christmas meals of tamales with Enrique and his family.

Knoebel took Enrique on a tour of colleges around the United States as the boy approached his senior year at Wood River High School with a 3.9 grade point average. And late last summer he took Dolores to Bates College in Maine where Dolores is majoring in Economics, courtesy of a $72,000-a-year  scholarship.

“It’s the power of mentoring,” he told donors. “It’s what we have to look forward to.”


Contact I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho at 208-450-9466 or visit



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