Category Archives: Impact

CultureAll workshop informs and inspires

His Nigerian name is 26 letters long, meaning “Every day you live, you always remember the good things people do.” Here in Des Moines, he is known as  Eric Idehen, and respected as a business leader who rose through the ranks from Dahls dishwasher to a Vice President at Wells Fargo Financial.
Dressed in traditional garments, Eric joined our Dreamer students for a morning CultureAll workshop during which he shared his homeland’s culture and his personal story of success in the United States. Son of a school headmaster and teacher and native of Benin City, Nigeria, Eric lived in Spain and the Ukraine before moving to Des Moines and working his way up. Along with interesting information about his home country, Eric dispensed inspiring wisdom:
“The one thing that can go with you everywhere in life, that nothing can take from you is your education,” he said. “The only person who can make you not successful is you.”
Poverty and hardship are relative, he explained, sharing the stories of orphans who live at the Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage he helped found. Hard work, respect for elders and people of other cultures and a mindset dedicated to giving back are fundamental for success.
Our Dreamer parents might want to adopt this Nigerian custom for their own homes!
Special thanks to ABC 5 and Banker’s Trust for the “One Classroom at a Time” grant that made this summer school workshop by CultureAll possible.

Noe the Nigerian prince

See more photos from the CultureAll presentation and other enrichment activities on our Flickr Page.

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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.

Sweet Dreams 2012 was a success!

Can a canapé change the world?

Find more photos of the food and fun on our Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/desmoinesihad/sets/72157629943041369/

It seems like a simple notion, but for a group of Des Moines “Dream Makers,” finger foods set the scene for engaging a powerful philanthropic force. Every spring for the past six years, a committee of local women has gathered to host “Sweet Dreams” — a girls night out style get together–  to support the Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation.

This April, Sweet Dreams raised more than $37,000 to provide support that will keep at-risk students in Des Moines in school, and help them on their way to college.

The right combination of food and friendship can indeed have a tremendous impact on a community. In addition to appetizers, this year’s event featured a touching testimonial from a past Dreamer, Kristen Holcomb, who shared how the organization impacted her:

Special thanks to 2012 Sweet Dreams Committee Members:

Dotty Thurston (Hostess), Kathy Stuart (Co-Chair) Michele Whitty (Co-Chair) Sara Bering, Nancy Bone, Diane Brown, Mary Cownie, Paula Duncan, Suzanne Farley, Priscilla Gilbert, Lynn Graves, Barbara Grefe, Ginny Hancock, Beth Koenig, Joan Middleton, Becky Moomey, Paula O’Brien, Cheryl Sypal, Nancy Vernon, Linda Witte.

Thanks also to Hoyt Sherman Place for lending us sound equipment, Tank Goodness for their delivery of warm, fresh chocolate chip cookies,  Cuisine at Home magazine staff for contributing a dish, Bethany Kohoutek for photography and Ephemera Design and Universal Printing for our lovely invitations.

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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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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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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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