Monthly Archives: March 2012

One month until our Sweet Dreams event!

The RSVPs to our annual Sweet Dreams event are rolling in and we couldn’t be more excited!

Special thanks to Ephemera Design and to Universal Printing for contributing design and printing support for these gorgeous invitations:


The April 25 event will go toward our goal of fully funding the 2018 Dreamer Class.

Sweet Dreams was envisioned by a group of women as an inspired opportunity to blend friendship and philanthropy. We call the generous community of women who donate through Sweet Dreams “Dream Makers,” because their contribution goes directly to fulfilling our promise to pay for each of our Dreamers post-secondary educational endeavors.

Would you like to attend the 2012 Sweet Dreams event? Contact the IHAD office for more information about how to join the Dream Maker women.


Meet Ms. Dusenbery, our Academic Coordinator

In the fall of 2009, IHAD hired Kristi Dusenbery as a full-time teacher to work with the Dreamers to make sure they’re on track in classes. Dreamers head to Ms. Dusenbery’s room, where she conducts small group study sessions, offers tutoring and tracks student progress by working collaboratively with their other grade-level teachers.

Kristi Dusenbery

Education: B.A., University of Northern Iowa

Why did you choose to teach for IHAD? I was intrigued by the idea of working with the same students from year-to-year. Building secure, meaningful, and long-term relationships with students is a privilege that simply isn’t realistic in most academic settings, and I see the benefits of it daily.
How is your job at IHAD different from or similar to your previous positions? For nearly 16 years, I chose to stay home fulltime with our three sons. Having experienced the joys and challenges of parenting children through elementary school, middle school, and high school — and being familiar with the emotional (and academic) highs and lows parents and children/teenagers deal with – has provided invaluable experience for my current role with the Dreamers. Prior to entering the teaching field, I did quite a bit of freelance writing, including the ghostwriting of two books that were published. My passion for writing definitely impacts my work with the Dreamers, because I believe there is great power in the written word and great potential for those who learn to express themselves through writing.

What is your favorite part of your job? The element of the job that keeps me going on difficult days is having productive and honest relationships with the kids. I love laughing with them, sharing their hurts, celebrating their joys and helping them to discover the great potential that lies within.

Interests/fun facts: I earned my first college degree at the age of 40 (it’s never too late!) I love watching college football. I love quirky, thought-provoking, and motivational quotes. My husband and I have been married 23 years and have three sons — two who currently serve in the U.S. Air Force and one who is a junior in high school.

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Mentoring: The extra mile

In addition to providing academic support, the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation works to pair each Dreamer with a long-term mentor who will serve as a positive influence in his or her life.

We’re lucky to have an amazing group of mentors who keep contact with the kids through acts as simple as driving them to school to make sure they arrive on time, to going out to sporting or theater events, to reading with them at “Books and Bagels”, to loading them up in an RV and taking them on a road trip adventure through the United States!

Yes, you heard that correctly. The Buckleys, longtime mentors to Javion, are going the literal extra mile(s) as mentors. They’ve embarked on a spring break trip that will take their family, plus Javion and his sister Jazmine, on an RV road trip from Des Moines to Kentucky and back. The trip includes stops at numerous landmarks and includes several days of camping, too. You can follow the adventures via the Buckley family’s travel blog!

We loved this photo that Brennan Buckley, Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation board president, sent us as an update from the trip. Who did they run into at the arch but Mr. Calaway, Javion’s principal at Callanan Middle School!

Mr. Calaway and Javion at the Saint Louis Arch.

Remember how strange it was when you’d run into your teachers outside of the classroom when you were a kid? It’s true, they’re always watching. 🙂

Are you interested in becoming a mentor? We still have a few King Dreamers who are looking for a good match, and are always excited to collect names of people who are interested in getting involved when we adopt our next project. Contact the IHAD office for details.

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Measuring impact in goosebumps

We have her graduation photo printed in our Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation annual report, but our current staff had never met Kristen, the smiling, cap-and-gown clad (Drake University, Class of 2002) woman who was adopted into the first Dreamer class back in 1990. How does she look back on the program, we wondered?

It seems fitting that within a week of our program turning 22, we would get an opportunity to sit down and talk about the impact “I Have a Dream” had on Kristen’s life.

Moulton Dreamer Kristen Holcomb (left) and Des Moines IHAD Executive Director, Emily Hamilton.

Her story started out like a lot of our Dreamer’s stories. She’s the third of five siblings in a family whose parents didn’t go to college. She was shy, with a bit of a rebellious streak.

I don’t remember ever being aware of what college was until our class was adopted in fifth grade,” Kristen says.

Suddenly, a new world of opportunities opened up. As a Dreamer, not only was Kristen promised an education, she was exposed to a whole host of new experiences that her mom threw her into with all the support she could.

Kristen remembers getting to work on the super computer in Ames during a field trip to Iowa State. She remembers their Dreamer book club and class newsletter and staying overnight in a sorority with her fellow students.

“You never know when you’re with these kids, what step is going to be the one that’s like, WAZAH!” she says, gesturing to show how even the seemingly insignificant interactions can help light a spark in a child’s imagination.

“A lot of my defining moments have come through “I Have a Dream,” Kristen says. “There were so many conversations with adults that I would never have had otherwise.”

After graduating from Des Moines North High School (coincidentally, only a year ahead of our current Executive Director, Emily), Kristen started college at Buena Vista University and finished college earning a business degree from Drake University, where she met her husband.

Kristen Thompson Holcomb, Moulton Dreamer and Drake University Class of 2002

After college, Kristen started her career at Allied Insurance before taking time off to become a stay-at-home-mom. She currently helps organize a large mom’s group and by the middle of our meeting was already brainstorming ways to give back to IHAD.

“It was huge for me,” she says. “Other than goosebumps, you can’t measure it. That magnitude cannot be discounted.”

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Happy Pi Day!

We love celebrating March 14 (3.14) as Pi Day!


Image via the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, NCTM Illuminations. (There are lots of Pi Day graphics on the site!)

How will you celebrate? It’s easy to find all sorts of Pi Day ideas online. Maybe next year we’ll have to throw a Pi Day bake sale fundraiser for IHAD! 


Have any of you ever read “Sir Cumference and the Knights of the Round Table“? It’s a story that has fun with math.

Conferences take place tonight and tomorrow at Callanan Middle School, so we’re looking forward to seeing our Dreamer families.

Meet Sarah, our AmeriCorps VISTA member

The Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation values the service of our AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, Sarah Myren. Sarah is working with IHAD for one year on projects that will help us better organize and track our volunteers and volunteer data, and she has been instrumental in planning the 2012 National Dreamer Conference, which will be held in Des Moines in July.

Sarah helps out at the Dreamer Family holiday party

Read more about Sarah and AmeriCorps:

What made you decide to join AmeriCorps VISTA?

I fell in love with service and non-profit work during my undergrad years at Simpson college through service trips and internships. I met many prior VISTAs who were able to gain experience working at non-profits that ultimately led to full-time positions and I knew this would be a great way to gain that experience while learning more about the Des Moines community. It worked out that a great opportunity opened up at Children and Family Urban Ministries the fall after I graduated and when the IHAD position opened up, it was a way to work in another non-profit focused on education but learn slightly different skills along the way.

What book inspires you?

The Noticer by Andy Andrews is probably one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. It’s about how perspective can have an incredible impact on a person’s life and the importance of taking a step back from a situation to look at it from a different perspective. I think if we all took the time to see something from a different perspective, there would be more understanding and positive growth in the world.

Are you involved in any networking organizations for nonprofit professionals, or other community groups?

I’ve been participating in DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies) for the past year. It’s a group of non-profit professionals who work with volunteers and we meet monthly to network and grow professionally through workshops. I’m hoping to participate in a new networking group for young non-profit professionals in Des Moines as well. Outside of work, I’m part of a group, Iowa AIR, interested in sharing information about immigration and immigration reform in Iowa and around the country.

What would your theme song be?

A song by a Latino group, Tercer Cielo, called “Mi Ultimo Dia”. It’s about appreciating and being thankful for every moment. Living life to the fullest and not being afraid to pursue life’s adventures.

Your favorite spot in Central Iowa?

I have two “home[s] away from home” here in the Des Moines area.  The first is in Grimes with my best friend and her family who have taken me in over the past couple years and the second is Las Americas-Trinity where I spend most of my evenings and weekends.  As for public spots, I seem to split my time between Smokey Row coffee shop, Fong’s and restaurants like El Salvador De Mundo (Best papusas!) and my newly discovered fave, the Tamale Industry.

Best trip you’ve ever taken?

While I’ve had some awesome service trips around the US, the best trip I’ve ever been on was my semester studying abroad in Thailand. We became very immersed in the culture of our new Thai friends and the university where we lived and studied. Of course, the ability to travel by public transportation to Bangkok and any number of beaches was also a plus! Overall though, the best part was the time with our best friends from the Thai university and the family who’s restaurant we went to each night.

Any idea what your next big adventure will be?

Delving into the non-profit world with a full-time position is the goal, although taking that trip through Latin America isn’t very far off the top of the list!

AmeriCorps Fast Facts

  • 775,000 Number of people who have served as AmeriCorps members since 1994.
  • 1 Billion Total number of hours served by AmeriCorps members since 1994.
  • 3.5 million Number of disadvantaged youth tutored, mentored, or served by AmeriCorps members in fiscal 2011.
  • 3.4 million Number of community volunteers managed or mobilized by AmeriCorps members in fiscal 2011.
  • $480 million Value of cash and in-kind donations leveraged by AmeriCorps members in fiscal 2010.
  • 15,000 Number of nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations served by AmeriCorps members.
  • $2.2 billion Total amount of Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards earned by AmeriCorps members since 1994.
  • $7.6 billion Amount of AmeriCorps funds invested in nonprofit, educational, and faithbased community groups since 1994.

Want to learn more about AmeriCorps? Visit their website,

Happy birthday to us!

A look back into our official document archives reveals that the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation received its 501c3 designation letter on March 9, 1990. So we’re counting today as our 22nd birthday!

1990 was the year we adopted our first Dreamer class of graduating 5th Graders from Moulton Elementary School in Des Moines. The Moulton Project sponsor was Grinnell College.

What’s on our birthday list? Consider gifting IHAD with a $22 “Happy Birthday!” donation. It’s easy to give via our online donation form. Or, have some fun with it through the Community Foundation Giving Cards. Buy one for yourself or for a friend. It works like a gift card for charitable contributions and it’s tax-deductible!

Your donation will help us fully fund the 2018 King Dreamer Project. These Dreamers are now in the 6th grade at Callanan Middle School in Des Moines.

Here’s to many more years of working to make the dream of a college education possible. Thanks for helping us celebrate!

1990 was also the year:

  • Nelson Mandela was released from Prison in South Africa
  • The Simpsons debuted on FOX
  • The skeleton of T.Rex “Sue” is found in South Dakota
  • East and West Germany reunite
  • The Space Shuttle Discovery places the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit
  • The first McDonalds was opened in Moscow USSR
  • Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for best picture
  • The Grammy for Best New Artist, which was awarded to Milli Vanilli, was revoked

Des Moines IHAD by the numbers

The Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation is proud of the impact we’ve made on the Des Moines community and excited to continue our work and expand our vision. Here’s a snapshot of numbers tied to our programs:

45 — Dreamers currently supported through the 2018 King Dreamer program. We adopted them as a 1st grade class!

35,000 — Young adults in Iowa who left the school system without high school diplomas (in 2008). Nationally, that number was 5.1 million.  Source.

95 — Percentage of Oakridge Dreamers who graduated from high school or earned a GED.

600,000— Dollars needed to declare our 2018 King Dreamers fully funded for college. You can donate online. Donate here.

260,000 — Estimated cost to society for EACH student who doesn’t graduate high school. (Figure includes lost taxes, productivity and earnings in his or her lifetime.) Source.

333 — Hours spent by IHAD Sponsor Joan Middleton volunteering, mentoring and attending Dreamer events. We are so grateful to have Joan and all of our mentors and volunteers!

10 — Percent improvement, on average, in reading for Dreamers supported by our Academic Coordinator between 4th and 5th grades.

1990 — The year the Des Moines chapter of the national “I Have a Dream” Foundation was founded. We will host chapters from all over the country this summer when we host the annual Dreamer Conference at Drake University.

3 — Long-term projects the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation has taken on to-date.

4,500 — Current cost to support one Dreamer for a year of IHAD programming.

0 — Other organizations in Des Moines that offer the same blend of long-term academic, social and financial support to prepare at-risk students for college and careers.

4,109.06 — Total amount raised for IHAD through Birdies for Charity in 2011.

200 – The number of pet treat bags our “Dreamers Do!” service learning group created and sold to help benefit shelter animals. The bags are part of a larger campaign to prevent animal cruelty.

80 — Percent of Dreamers attended summer camps last year.

24 — The number of Facebook fans IHAD added in January, 2012.

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