Valley resident Ken Lewis founded the Idaho chapter of the I Have a Dream Foundation with a promise, and a pledge: That each of the 46 kids in the inaugural class would receive a two-year scholarship upon graduating high school. Back then, his commitment came with a check, for $100,000.
Five years later, Lewis is stepping back into an emeritus role—and stepping up his contribution.
Lewis is backing the foundation with an additional $400,000, bringing his total contribution to $500,000.
That half-a-million gets the class around halfway funded: Between paying into the scholarships and the financing the accompanying after-school program, the whole package costs about $2,500 per student per year, according to Executive Director John Blackman.
The current group, which will be entering high school next year, began as fourth graders at Alturas (then Woodside) Elementary in 2012.
“Everyone involved is doing this because they want to help kids get an education,” Lewis said. “When I was in grade school, my parents sacrificed mightily. My brother and I slept in the bedroom while they slept on the couch in the living room. But, I got a great education. It’s how you break that cycle.”
Lewis went on to attend Princeton and Harvard Law School, before a successful business career in Portland, Ore. With money off their minds, the foundation’s staff can focus on the education if its “dreamers.”
“When you’re fiscally solvent, it gives you the confidence to keep moving forward,” Blackman said. “It allows you to serve these kids—to keep focus on these kids—without the angst of worrying about where the money will come from.”
In the future, there could be even more kids to serve.
“I hope this is the first of many I Have a Dream programs in the Wood River Valley,” Lewis said.
“That’s my dream.”