One of the values that “I Have A Dream” strives to instill our Dreamers is generosity, to recognize the importance of giving back to the community. As “I Have A Dream” has a commitment to ensure opportunities for our Dreamers to reach their full potential, we hope that as Dreamers achieve success in their lives, they will pay it forward and help the next generation accomplish their goals.
Two Dreamer Alumni from the Old Westbury Cohort on Long Island, Jonathan Williams and Fenton Joseph, have taken this idea to heart. This spring, they launched the Dreamer for Dreams Scholarship at their high school alma mater, Westbury High School. The scholarship was created to be given to a rising senior who has a commitment to social change. This year, the recipient is a graduating senior who will be attending Stony Brook University in the fall, where she will begin pursuing her doctorate in child psychology to address issues of low self esteem and a lack of acceptance. During the ceremony, Jonathan and Fenton spoke of the impact that “I Have A Dream” – New York had on their lives, and Jonathan surprised the audience by announcing a commitment to continuing the scholarship to future students for at least another three years.
Jonathan says that the idea was inspired by his grandmother, who passed away in 2011. “Giving back to the community was something close to her heart and was something that I wanted to do in her memory. As my best friend (and a fellow Dreamer), I couldn’t think of anyone better to collaborate with than Fenton. We tossed around ideas about what the scholarship should stand for (just giving money didn’t feel right) and impacting social change kept being the centralized theme. I knew from the beginning that bringing other Dreamers together to provide a scholarship for one student who had dreams of attending college was exactly what I wanted to do.”
Jonathan and Fenton contributed their own money to start the scholarship fund, but also used this as an opportunity to reach out to fellow Dreamers from their cohort and rally them to the cause. Their cohort Sponsor Jefry Rosmarin, as well as former Dreamer Mentor John Tanenbaum, agreed to match any amount that they raised. They raised a total of $2,300 for this year’s scholarship, and hope to increase next year’s scholarship to $10,000. Fenton and Jonathan are currently discussing creative ways to raise these additional funds and bring greater awareness to their cause.
Jonathan says that this experience “has definitely been on the most rewarding endeavors of my life. The dream started [when we were] Dreamers and now we are able to provide dreams for others, as well.” Both agree that this year was a great success, but they are eager to get started on next year’s scholarship. All of us at “I Have A Dream” – New York are inspired by these two Alumni and are thrilled to see that the message and spirit of the Dreamer Program continues to be spread to a broader audience.