The newly formed I Have a Dream Foundation of Idaho has taken the entire third-grade class of Woodside Elementary School under its wing, promising to help the kids with their studies so they can graduate from high school and guaranteeing all 50 of them two-year community college scholarships.
“I’ve been in education for 25 years and this is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen for kids,” Blaine County School District Superintendent Lonnie Barber said in an interview prior to the announcement to the third-graders at the school Friday.
Finishing elementary school and high school and going on to college has long been a theme at Woodside Elementary. The I Have a Dream Foundation stated that it is committed to making that a reality, regardless of a student’s financial situation.
“Our goal is to help you realize your dreams,” said Ken Lewis, founder of the Idaho organization, in announcing the promises. “From now on, we’re going to call you Dreamers. “We want you to go to college, and me and my friends here, we will provide a two-year community school scholarship to every one of you.”
Lewis’ friends are the 10-member board of directors of the nonprofit Idaho foundation, which was organized only last summer.
I Have a Dream Foundations are not new. The program is in place in 57 cities in 26 states. But the Woodside Elementary program is the first in Idaho.
Lewis, a part-time Wood River Valley resident, has been involved in I Have a Dream Foundations in Portland, Ore., where he has helped some 800 students achieve college educations.
For the Woodside students, in addition to providing scholarships, the foundation will hire a project coordinator to assist the 50 students with their studies and to work with their teachers and parents to help them make it through school.
“That’s a two-and-a-half million-dollar commitment over the next 14 years,” foundation Co-Vice Chair Stephen Shultz said in an interview. “So we need help.”
Lewis and Shultz reported that donations are already pouring in. They said the foundation hopes to raise about $200,000 a year, with $100,000 going to annual operating expenses and $100,000 to be set aside for future college tuitions.
Friday’s announcement was met with enthusiasm by students and staff at Woodside Elementary in south Hailey. The assembly seemed like a pep rally for college education, with students participating in cheers led by teachers and Principal Brad Henson.
“I can’t wait to see what each and every one of you is going to become,” Henson said. “I know you guys are going to become great. You can be anything you want to be, but you’ve got to work hard to accomplish your mission.
“You’re going to take over this world, and I feel great that you’re going to be taking care of me.”
Barber told the students that “you’re going to get a chance to learn more than you ever thought. You’re going to get a special gift today that no one else is going to get. But you have to work for it.”
New board members
The foundation recently announced that it has five new board members who join the original five members who organized the foundation last summer.
New board members are Dori Madsen, an educational therapist and former executive director of the Southern Idaho Learning Center; Sheila Mells, a civil rights attorney and court-appointed special advocate for children, women and animals; Erin Pfaeffle, manager of St. Luke’s Center for Community Health and a board member of the Blaine County Community Drug Coalition; Wendy Ruiz, a Head Start employee and Hispanic community activist; and Dolores Vega, Shoshone support group leader with the Advocates of Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Original board members include Lewis, who serves as president and treasurer and is a former shipping executive; Shultz, a businessman who serves as co-vice chair; and Reginald Reeves, the foundation chair who is also an attorney and chair of the Sun Valley Charitable Foundation; Carol Harlig, who serves as co-vice chair and is the founder of the Guardian Angel Scholarship program; and Al Hackel, who serves as secretary and is a pediatric surgeon and professor emeritus of Stanford Medical School.
Lewis said all 10 of the board members have already contributed to the foundation. He said the board intends that other I Have a Dream Foundation groups be organized in Blaine County.
“We hope this is the first of many such Dreamer classes in the valley,” Lewis said.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org