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Members of “I Have a Dream” Foundation—Idaho’s inaugural class Jason Cox, left, Mariyah Cueva, Janileth Ruiz, Nicholas Fehr and Eduardo Escalera have all won awards nationally, or locally for their work at Wood River High School. They started their sophomore year on Monday.

With its current class charging through high school, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation—Idaho is doubling down, pledging to sponsor post-graduate education for another class of kids within two years.

They’ll get the same promise that each of the 46 current participants got as fourth-graders at Alturas—then called Woodside—Elementary School in 2012: Graduate from high school and receive a two-year scholarship toward whatever education comes next. For 92 percent of them, they’d become the first in their families to attend college.

The second class will enter under new leadership. Laura Rose-Lewis will take over as executive director on Sept. 1, tasked with keeping the current group on track, and bringing new ones on board.

“I am thrilled to join IHAD to further its mission in providing academic, social and emotional support to under-resourced youth,” Rose-Lewis said in a written statement. “We can support our adopted classes from early elementary school through high school and college/trade school with guaranteed tuition support.”

Along with tuition comes academic and social support, from Program Director Pamela Donoso and former Executive Director Kris Stoffer, an adolescent psychologist who will continue to work with students as a consultant.

In 2017, Donoso won a pair of national awards for her work; her students recorded the highest GPA and average attendance rate of any middle school across the foundation, which has 16 chapters across 11 states and New Zealand.

This summer, she and Stoffer facilitated a “credit recovery” program for students to make up for incomplete or unsatisfactory coursework during their ninth-grade year. Thirteen students took advantage of it, meaning they started sophomore year at grade level.

Overall, five Dream Scholars posted grade point averages over 3.7 to start high school, and 20 topped a 3.0.

“We have some great kids,” board Chairman Brent Robinson said.

Two were honored nationally: Mariyah Cueva and Bayro Llantoy won awards in a nationwide “I Have a Dream” Foundation essay contest, and were recognized at the organization’s University Prep Conference in July.

And seven won awards for work during their first year at Wood River High School: Llantoy, Jason Cox, Chloe Deffe, Eduardo Escalera, Yohenny Giron, Janileth Ruiz and Nick Fehr. Fehr took home one of the school’s top P.R.I.D.E awards for his “positive attitude, influence and example.”

Blaine County has the only “I Have a Dream” organization in the state. In 2012, Ken Lewis—currently president emeritus of the board of directors—brought with him to Idaho his experience with the foundation in New York and Oregon. The part-time Elkhorn resident backed the program with a pledge: $100,000. Since, he’s added another $400,000. Between paying for scholarships and financing the accompanying after-school program, that alone is about half of what the foundation needs to complete its mission for the first group.

“Our mission states, ‘Given equal access to resources, all children can realize their innate potential and achieve their dreams,’” Rose-Lewis said. “We are eager to adopt another Dream Scholar class within two years to expand our support to Blaine County youth.”

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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