Category Archives: Fulfilling the mission

Summer school open house

Summer school came to a close on Friday, with an open house for parents, mentors and community members. We even had a member of the media stop by!

The Dreamers shared poster presentations of their nonfiction projects, which were a lesson not only in the topic they chose to study, but also in time management and meeting deadlines. It was important for all of the projects to be done in time for the presentation. Topics ranged from alternative energy creation to careers in fashion and beauty to babysitting tips to marine biology and how to fix cleft palates. Our students have an eclectic range of interests!

Among the Dreamers, the most anticipated element of the open house was the chess tournament, which culminated in a championship game.

Everyone circled up around Warvae and Jaleel, the final contenders. The room was shockingly silent as the boys battled it out, and then erupted into hoots and hollers when Jaleel was named victor.

He got to take home his own chess set as a prize!

Summer school capped off with a pulled pork lunch for students and our visitors, and for the 20 who completed the attendance requirement, a trip to Adventureland.

Read more about Dreamer Summer School on our blog.

Read more about chess club on our blog.

See many more photos from the poster presentations and chess on our Flickr stream.

A huge thanks to Wells Fargo for a grant that helps us produce summer school, and to our friends at ABC 5 and Bankers Trust for the “One Classroom at a Time” grant that we’re using to make this session possible.

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Hawkeyes for a day: U of I college visit

The Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation didn’t just promise our Dreamers that we would pay for college if they graduate from high school. We work tirelessly to foster a culture of college throughout their education. University pennants hang from the walls of Ms. Dusenbery’s classroom, and we invite Dreamer families for visits to campuses to get a sense of the experience and expectations for students. This summer, we traveled to Iowa City to visit the University of Iowa.

The schedule included a campus tour (fun fact from our guide: There are more books in the University of Iowa library than people in the state, and more pigs in Iowa than books in the U of I library!), a peek into a residence hall room, all-you-care-to-eat lunch in the dining hall, and a chance to go behind the scenes at Kinnick Stadium.

The best message of the day came from Hawkeye football player Brett Van Sloten, who gave the kids a locker room talk that underscored the need to be self-motivated, accountable and able to manage their time wisely. All are important skills for students — especially student athletes!

Even our die-hard ISU fans enjoyed seeing the pink visitor locker rooms:

A special thanks to IHAD board member Andy Frantz for putting us in touch with the athletics office.

Seeing this picture of the Dreamers hanging out at the Old Capitol next to this photo of recent U of I alumna and former Dreamer, Jenny, really brings home the impact of the IHAD promise!

Just six more years until they’re ready to start their own college experiences!

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IHAD Affiliate success: Portland, Oregon

We were thrilled to watch this video from our affiliate “I Have a Dream” Foundation in Portland. Their model is definitely an inspiration as we think about how to scale our success and engage in discussions about what our next Dreamer class will look like. Take five minutes and watch what they’re doing. If you know of similar strategic partnerships that can help us in Des Moines, let us know!



Summer School Smarts

Our first week of Dreamer Summer School is underway, and our students haven’t missed a beat!

Barely out the door after sixth grade, they’re showing up bright and early to work in math centers, and are honing communication skills through a research-based poster project.

Our AmeriCorps VISTA, Sarah, is jumping right in with the kids!

We’re also working with them to start blogging, on publishing digital Storybird books and learning how to use Microsoft Publisher as well as making a video for future classes of incoming 6th graders on how to survive the transition to Middle School.

All before lunch!

A huge thanks to Wells Fargo for a grant that helps us produce summer school, and to our friends at ABC 5 and Bankers Trust for the “One Classroom at a Time” grant that we’re using to make this session possible.

Together, we are doing our part to prevent the “summer slide”  — a huge contributor to the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers. (This “How to Beat Summer Learning Loss” post by Edutopia has some great information about how to come together to combat this phenomenon.)

Want to get involved?

We’re still looking for some chess club volunteers!

Join us for our end of summer school cookout and poster presentation open house! It will be held June 29, 2012 at Callanan Middle School.

Donate to help us complete funding for our summer school program.

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National Dreamer Conference Volunteer/Sponsorship opportunities

The Des Moines “I Have A Dream” Foundation is excited to host the 11th annual National Dreamer Conference, which brings together students supported by “I Have A Dream” programs nationwide.

In July, more than 100 middle school and high school Dreamers from across the country will gather at Drake University to participate in three days of workshops focusing on college and career readiness.

Dreamers will interact with college professors, local professionals, current students, speakers, and program
alumni who have achieved their college goals, and engage in conversation about how to be successful in school and careers.

Students receive a reading list and come prepared to participate in seminars on college selection, career options, leadership, decision making, and public speaking. Dreamers leave having experienced life on a college campus. This time spent immersed in the college environment helps the students to envision their academic futures. They return home inspired and equipped with the tools needed to be personally successful.

We are currently seeking sponsors to help us present this fantastic opportunity to Dreamers, and highlight all Des Moines has to offer.

Individuals may also volunteer at the event, with registration/checkout on July 18 and 21, or a lunchtime “Career Bingo” networking event on Thursday, July 19, 2012.

Please contact Brianne Sanchez ( for Conference details on how you or your company can help!

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Meet Oakridge Project alumna Jenny

Dreamer Alumna: Oakridge Project, University of Iowa, Class of 2012

We’re proud of our successful Dreamer alumni who have gone on to pursue college and careers. Jenny shared how the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation (IHAD) impacted her academically and personally:

Without IHAD, I probably would not have had any idea what to expect after graduating from high school and all the world has to offer. Being a first generation college student, it was very helpful to have IHAD there by my side to guide me through the steps that I needed to take in order to make it to college so that I can further my education and do something with my life. I am finishing out the requirements for my bachelor’s degree in psychology along with some remaining courses for the pre-medical component of my studies at the University of Iowa.

IHAD was a life-changing experience that has helped shape who I am today. Thanks to the guidance, patience and support of the sponsors and project coordinators and everybody else who was involved, I am able to further my education and go after my dreams with 110% confidence in what I do. As a Dreamer, I loved going on trips and participating in outings that were both very educational and fun at the same time. Many good memories have stemmed from those times.

My advice for current Dreamers is to keep working hard in school and use the resources that are available to you — the Program Coordinator, mentors, sponsors, whoever! Just make sure to stay involved and never be afraid to ask questions. Lastly, remember to have fun! As a Dreamer, I loved going on trips and participating in outings that were both very educational and fun at the same time. Many good memories have stemmed from those times.

Our board is awesome

Last night, the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation Board of Directors met in the Callanan Middle School Classroom that our Dreamers use as a “home base” during the school day. Principal Calaway talked about the relationship the IHAD program has with the public school, and Kristi gave the board a tour of all of the elements of the room that contribute to our students’ success.

IHAD academic coordinator Kristi Dusenbery explains some of the challenges middle school students are facing.

It was great for the Board to sit in the same seats our Dreamers use during the day and get a different perspective on how the organization operates.

There's no better place to connect with our mission than in the Dreamer classroom.

We value their enthusiasm, professionalism and efforts to make our organization a success!

The IHAD board listens to challenges our middle school students face.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation, our Board members are great contacts in the community.

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National Volunteer Week: Make a difference with IHAD

To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we thought we would share a few ways you can make a difference with the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation:

Books & Bagels: This monthly event spans the school year. Dreamers and siblings gather at the Drake University School of Education for an hour of reading and a breakfast of bagels and doughnuts on a Saturday morning. Join us as a volunteer reading buddy! We’re looking for volunteers for the May 19 event, since Drake students will be out for summer break.

Books and Bagels is a monthly literacy event held in the Drake School of Education library.

After school tutoring: The school year is down to the final stretch, but IHAD values our volunteer tutors more than ever! Help our Dreamer students achieve their academic goals and spend some one-on-one time as they tackle middle school math, language arts, science and global studies concepts.

Enrichment activity chaperone: We love to take our Dreamers on outings that expand their horizons and often turn to mentors and volunteers to help with transportation and chaperoning duties.

Dreamer Conference Volunteer: The 2012 Dreamer Conference will be held right here on the Drake University campus! We’re excited for the opportunity to host more than 100 Dreamer students from affiliates across the country. If you’d like to help with check-in/out, as a workshop facilitator, chaperone, or at our career fair, the conference is a great way to get acquainted with our mission.

Mentor: Our mentors play an integral role in helping to shape the successful future of our Dreamers. Mentors spend one-on-one time to provide consistent adult support for a child from a low-income community. Hang out and have fun (take in a sporting event, see a play, try a science experiment together) — but with a purpose.  We ask for at least a one year commitment, although often our mentors stay involved for the duration of the projects. Mentors should visit with a Dreamer a minimum of three times during each month. Personal and criminal background records checks are required.

A key component of the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation is building strong relationships between our Dreamers and adults who can model responsibility and a path to success. We concentrate on a public school class from first grade through high school to provide a proactive, sustained approach to lowering the dropout rate – one student at a time. If you believe in the importance of motivating and empowering low-income youth, we would be grateful for any time, talents and resources you would be willing to commit to our Dreamers.

For more information on local volunteering opportunities and efforts, check out Volunteer Iowa!

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Earning and Learning

Our Dreamers have already received a great gift: the promise of a college education. The Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation (IHAD) promise also involves continued support — making sure our students have the skills they need to grow into responsible adults.

IHAD starts financial literacy lessons early.

Financial literacy is an important component of success, so Ms. Dusenbery created a system that would teach students about saving an spending habits and reward them for doing their job: being on time, behaving appropriately in class, attending our enrichment activities, getting good grades and going above and beyond to help their classmates.

Our Dreamers love looking in their ledgers to see how much they’ve earned.

We call this our “Commission System.” Each student has a ledger full of faux checks that our IHAD classroom staff writes in amounts that correspond to attendance, behavior, grade data, etc. The Dreamers must balance their checkbooks each week. Just like in the real world, they can earn interest on “money” they save, and are penalized for overdrawing on their accounts.

Twice a week, they have the opportunity to purchase instant gratification  items like snacks, or they can save up for bigger things like sports hats or a new backpack and even experiences, like trips to see a movie with a mentor or staff member. Our Dreamers are quickly learning how to manage money. As they grow older, we’re envisioning the Commission System to evolve to help pay the fees for the sports teams and extracurricular activities our Dreamers want to participate in, but couldn’t otherwise afford.

If you’d like to donate an item or gift card to IHAD to offer through the commission system, please contact the IHAD program staff.

Looking for financial literacy resources? Iowa College Aid offers programs for various age levels.

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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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