IUSD “Dreamers” Head to D.C. for Nonprofit Group’s National Conference

Parent School's four "Dreamers" left LAX early Wednesday for a conference in Washington, D.C.

Four very special students from Frank D. Parent School are headed to Washington, D.C., this week on an all-expenses-paid trip sponsored by the national nonprofit “I Have a Dream” Foundation.

Classmates since first grade in Inglewood Unified, our four “Dreamers” are lucky enough to be a part of the Foundation’s considerable support – which since 2006 has included free year-round enrichment programs, tutoring and various other services for two entire grade levels of students.

This week the students will count a trip to the Nation’s Capital as another major benefit of the program, which follows its “Dreamers” through elementary, middle and high school and even offers scholarship opportunities for college and direct support to them once they get there.

Our Dreamers, currently 8th graders at Frank D. Parent School, were scheduled to Los Angeles International Airport with six other students from Inglewood on July 23 to attend the National Dreamer Conference in Washington, D.C.

The event is hosted annually by a different “I Have a Dream” Foundation affiliate – there are 30 across the United States and New Zealand – and gives students an opportunity to stay at American University, attend educational workshops and squeeze in some sight-seeing along the way.

“They’re super-excited about the trip. They can’t stop talking about it,” said Morgan Farley, a program coordinator with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation—Los Angeles who works at Parent School. “What they’re most looking forward to is being away from their parents and being at a college campus outside of California. They’re also looking forward to meeting other Dreamers.”

That’s definitely true for 13-year-old Frank Parent student Journi Brown, who will make her first visit to Washington, D.C., for the Dreamer Conference. Like many college freshmen, she’ll stay in dorms with a roommate she’s never met, and wake up each day to a busy schedule.

“I’m very excited. I’m going to come with an open mind,” Journi said. “I’m looking forward to getting the college experience.”

Typically, “I Have a Dream” Foundation affiliates send six students to the yearly conference, said Katy Garretson, executive director of the Los Angeles affiliate.  But this summer, 10 will attend from Inglewood, thanks to generous donations from Republic Services and Marvin Engineering Co.

Selection for the trip was “very competitive,” requiring applicants to write essays, Garretson said.  For Journi and fellow Dreamer and Parent classmate Leah Williams, 12, the extra work was worth it. Both put a lot of thought into their essays in hopes that they’d be selected for the summer trip.  Their efforts paid off.

The “I Have a Dream” Foundation doesn’t have any qualifications for which students it admits into its programs; the organization simply selects an entire class of elementary students at an underperforming, underserved school in a low-income neighborhood.

It then makes a long-term commitment to provide free programs, services and individualized case management for 10 consecutive years, following each student through high school graduation and into college.

Students have access to a comprehensive program that prepares them for higher education through academic support, social-emotional development, tutoring, college prep work and more.  Dreamers also are able to receive up to $2,000 in scholarship money to pay for expenses not already covered by financial aid, Garretson said.

In the Los Angeles area, the foundation sponsors current classes of Dreamers in Watts, Pasadena, East L.A. and Inglewood.