How to Help: I Have A Dream Foundation’s First “Dreamer School”
If you skim this, jump ahead to “read more” for info on some easy ways you can support this incredible school and organization.
Another local organization that inspires me greatly is Oregon’s I Have a Dream Foundation. Since 1990, they have been helping low income students achieve academic success through the “adoption” of 3rd-grade classrooms across Portland and Forest Grove/Cornelius, with some pretty remarkable results. Dreamer students have seen increased high school graduation/GED rates, increased college attendance, and decreased discipline rates over the years, and 2010-2011 marks a significant increase in the kind of impact this program can make for Oregon students, with the opening of Oregon’s first “Dreamer School last fall. I had the honor of spending time with its Principal, Paz Ramos, and Dreamer School Director Traci Rossi last week. It was incredible to see firsthand the opportunity to help create real, grassroots-driven change for over 600 students in our community.
Building on its past successes, Oregon’s I Have a Dream Foundation Affiliate announced last the selection of Alder Elementary, on the Eastern edge of Portland in the Reynolds School District, as it’s first “Dreamer School. With the goal of creating ”a different kind of “magnet” school – one that significantly decreases student/family transience and that serves as a hub for community services and stability”, the school’s plan is to provide low income students with long-term relationships with caring adults, academic and personal/social support services, and a “culture of college” among school and student families.
Alder is a school of both significant need- it’s student population has one of the highest poverty rates in the state, with 93% student eligibility for free or reduced lunch, and nearly 75 percent speaking English as a second language. Approximately 20% of the student population is homeless. But, as I learned when I spent time with Alder’s visionary (and, make no mistake, “no excuses”) principal, Paz Ramos, some amazing things are already happening- and it’s easier than you’d think for each and every one of us to play a small part in this Dream.
“Alder is where College Begins” is the message that greets you when you walk in the front door. Based on the research-based STRIVE model, the program addresses the entire birth-through-college-completion continuum in collaboration with a broad network of education and nonprofit partners, creating a “culture of college” that begins at kindergarten. College banners hang throughout the school, local colleges and Universities have adopted individual classrooms, Classroom doors boldly announce, “Class of 2027“. And from what I saw walking through the halls with Principal Ramos, there isn’t a teacher, administrator, or student in the building who doesn’t believe this to be true.
Though this is the first year of the Dreamer school model, it’s clear that great things are underway. Ramos and his team are hard at work not only helping students envision the future of a college education; they are also building a stronger sense of community around the school through parent participation and outreach to the local business community. It’s a complex and tough task, no doubt. But the school is already seeing results. For the first time in four years, Alder is meeting federal benchmarks for reading, math and attendance, and with the support of I Have A Dream Foundation team, its Corporate and Foundation partners, and individual volunteers, supporters, and donors, there’s no question in my mind these numbers will continue to improve. As I learned, there are many (simple!) ways that each of us can help support this incredible vision. Read below, do something, and pass it on!
TAKE ACTION TODAY
Below are top items on Alder’s “wish list”. Contact Alder Elementary at 503-255-4673 or email Principal Paz Ramos at email@example.com to help. And pass it on!
- College T-Shirts: New College T-Shirts are needed for student prizes and contests throughout the year. Show off your school pride and donate shirts (sized Kids Small to XL)
- College Banners: College banners are being hung throughout the gymnasium and hallways. Add your alma mater to the collection!
- Clothing Items. The school also collects clothing to help student families throughout the year. Clothing in good condition for K-5 students is a year-round need.
- Career Day Volunteers: A Career Day is being planned for later this Spring. Speakers are needed to share stories of career paths with K-5 students.
- Donations of any amount are needed to help support Alder’s programs and students. A few examples include:
- School T-Shirts: Alder students take pride when wearing official school t-shirts. A donation of of $25 purchases two packs of t-shirts—which are especially helpful for the school’s homeless population.
- Field Trips: Teachers hope to take each classroom on 2 trips this year- to OMSI, the Zoo, and around the city of Portland. Field trips cost approcimately $500 per classroom; with 21 classrooms this adds up quickly for a school whose district has experienced significant budget cuts already.
- Save the date of May 14, for Alder’s fundraiser- Cow Bingo, sports, and more!
Learn and Read More About I Have A Dream Foundation Oregon:
There’s much more to be done to help grow the IHAD mission. Contact Traci Rossi, Dreamer School Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503.287.7203
- Read more about IHAD’s Oregon here and follow them on Facebook here
- Get a glimpse of Alder from KATU’s Video Feature here, and read more about what The Oregonian has to say about Paz Ramos and the Dreamer School vision here
- Read IHAD’s Winter Newsletter here
- And, October 1 is the annual “Dream Big” Fundraiser. Save the date!