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.
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.
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.”