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 “I Have A Dream” Foundation—Idaho’s Summer Seminar Coordinator Kris Stoffer (standing) assists students and their tutors this week in Hailey.

Wood River High School students who have slipped behind in their school credits during the COVID-19 pandemic are taking advantage of a free tutoring program designed to help them catch up.

The nonprofit “I Have a Dream” Foundation—Idaho adapted and expanded its existing “credit-recovery” program used for 14 of its “Dream Scholars” to serve an additional 36 Wood River students in need of tutoring.

The $20,000 program runs from June 1-25 and is funded 50/50 by the nonprofit and the Blaine County School District, using classrooms at the high school during weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We are excited about partnering with the School District,” said I Have a Dream Foundation Executive Director Laura Rose-Lewis. “All of these students are expected to recover the credits that they need.”

The Foundation’s Summer Seminar tutoring program, for rising grades 10-12, uses the Plato online learning platform already available through the School District, but with the support of paid staff and volunteer peer (student) tutors willing to help out.

“Even after the Summer Seminar ends on June 25, students can complete the Plato program online at their own pace,” Rose-Lewis said. “They can continue to work at home before school starts on Aug. 17.”

Rose-Lewis said the Summer Seminar’s success with Plato resulted from the intensive personal tutoring support and the lack of distractions, compared to at-home settings.

“That has always been the I Have a Dream model,” she said.

The foundation was established in 1981 in Harlem in New York City by businessman and philanthropist Eugene Lang. When Lang returned to his grade school to provide an encouraging address to its students, the principal informed him that 75 percent of the students would likely not graduate from high school and only one would attend college. On the spot, he pledged to a sixth-grade class that he would pay for any of them to go to college if they graduated from high school.

The “I Have a Dream” Foundation now has 16 chapters in 11 states and New Zealand. It supports more than 18,000 students in 200 programs nationwide.

The Idaho chapter started with sponsorship of 46 fourth-graders at Alturas Elementary School in 2012, 92 percent of whom will be the first in their families to go to college. The kids are provided with support for academics, counseling and life skills. Graduates will receive tuition equivalent to two years at College of Southern Idaho, along with additional financial aid counseling.

Rose-Lewis said these Dream Scholars are scheduled to graduate from high school in 2022.

“For the next group we’re going to sponsor, we’ll begin in first grade because early education is a strong indicator of high school success,” she said.

For more information about the program, go to ihdfidaho.org.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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