At the core of "I Have A Dream" - New York’s success is its programming. Over three decades, IHDF-NY has sponsored thousands of children and worked with these Dreamers from the earliest ages until they graduate from high school. After graduation, "I Have A Dream" – New York guarantees them even more opportunity to succeed by providing tuition assistance for higher education.
IHDF-NY is currently serving over 500 “Dreamers,” including 100 students in 3rd through 12th grade who are served through the Cohort Program at two sites in New York City. An additional 400 plus Dreamers, in college and beyond, are being served through the College Success Program, career development and alumni services, and other supplemental programming.
Cohorts of Dreamers are identified as young as first grade through partnerships with public housing developments and collaborations with under-resourced public schools. IHDF-NY works closely with all Dreamers from the point of identification through high school and provides a rigorous, year-round program that enhances academic performance with tutoring and mentoring. IHDF-NY also provides dynamic experiences that boost Dreamers’ confidence, builds character, and engages them in a wide variety of subjects, from the arts to physical fitness to community service. Additionally, IHDF-NY provides guaranteed tuition assistance for higher education to any Dreamer who graduates from high school. All of these initiatives help our Dreamers break the cycle of poverty and be fully prepared for a promising career and future.
"I Have A Dream" - NY is first and foremost a college access program. In order to reach our goal of all Dreamers attending and graduating from college, academic programming takes a prominent role in all activities. IHDF-NY staff communicate and collaborate closely with schools to track homework schedules, projects, exams and academic challenges and concerns. Staff plan activities and events that occur in tandem with the lessons during the regular school hours. Rather than introduce new lessons during after-school hours, this complementary design reinforces lessons learned throughout the day and are delivered using the following formats:
Homework Help: Every day, IHDF-NY offers a safe space for homework completion with academic resources and plenty of skilled help and encouragement. Staff work closely with teachers, school faculty and volunteers to provide activities that support the lessons of the school day.
Tutoring: Dreamers of all ages benefit from grade-appropriate tutoring from volunteers and paid academic professionals in both one-to-one pairs and small group instruction.
Workshops: IHDF-NY staff hold specialized workshops to improve writing, math and vocabulary skills at all ages.
Test Prep: All Dreamers participate in appropriate test preparation activities, whether it is for the NY State Exams that begin in 3rd grade or the SATs and ACTs in high school.
Summer Academy: In order to help Dreamers avoid the “summer slide,” age-appropriate programming is offered to every elementary school cohort over the summer. Dreamers are expected to attend the IHDF-NY Summer Academy provided they are not enrolled in another academic or recreational program. There is a heavy focus on academics with reading, writing, math review, and special science activities. This includes ScienceExplorers, a highly interactive program that engages and excites students about biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering through a series of hands-on projects and experiments. Elementary school Dreamers participate in ScienceExplorers during the summer and periodically during the school year.
Afternoons are spent in sports and recreational activities and weekly field trips that expose Dreamers to all that NYC has to offer youth during the summer months. The youngest cohorts of Dreamers have all-day programming while older Dreamers (middle & high school) are encouraged to find summer employment, internships or specialized academic programming, and must attend weekly IHDF-NY activities.
IHDF-NY staff work with Mentoring USA and other volunteers to pair Dreamers with an adult mentor at a young age. These relationships often last the entire span of the Dreamer's time at IHDF-NY, providing strong role-modeling and support. At a young age, Dreamers and their mentors participate in group and one-on-one activities. As the Dreamers mature, the mentors traditionally transition into the role of a "College Coach" and the relationship focuses on college and career exploration and the college admission process.
- Health & Wellness
IHDF-NY acknowledges that Dreamers must be healthy in mind and body in order to be successful academically. To this end, all ages are provided with health literacy programming, mental health services, nutrition lessons, healthy snacks, cooking classes, and opportunities to be physically active. Healthy choices are not made in silos, so parents and families are included in many of our health and wellness initiatives:
Building Wellness™: Through experiential learning with games, activities and medical professionals as guest speakers, the Building Wellness curriculum endeavors to encourage and empower Dreamers to seek, question, process and integrate health information to obtain the highest standard of health.
Food Fest: Dreamers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to create a healthy, tasty meal. Through activities that introduce new foods, shopping and chopping skills, and nutritional information at age-appropriate levels, Dreamers are ready to prepare a healthy meal for their family and friends at any age.
Sports and Recreation: Dreamers play basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, practice yoga and run track among many other sports. The youngest Dreamers partner with New York Road Runners through their Mighty Milers program and run/walk miles to earn books. In addition to playing sports, Dreamers attend a variety of professional sporting events to root on the home team!
Mental Health Program: Through partnerships with local Schools of Social Work, every cohort has at least one Social Work Intern who is supervised by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker on site providing individual and group counseling, mental health programming, and on-site referral services. IHDF-NY also partners with other organizations such as Planned Parenthood to offer workshops on sexual health, relationships, and communication. Every site has a Boys Group and a Girls Group that meets regularly for Dreamer Talk to discuss topics about growing up, communication, relationships, self-esteem, and body image, among many other age-appropriate topics.
Mental and physical health begin in the home, so through our Family Matters initiative, families are encouraged to participate in family counseling, groups for mothers and fathers, nutrition workshops and parenting workshops.
- Enrichment & New Experiences
Exposing young children to environments and people introduces them to new ideas and dreams. New York City has so many places, people and events to share with young people, Dreamers are never at a loss for fun extra-curricular activities including:
- Music: Elementary school Dreamers participate in weekly music education lessons that encourage students to experiment and improvise in music based on emotions, sounds, and noises, build their music literacy, create their own songs, and occasionally conduct each other in performance. Program lessons are also structured so students can feel, look, and act like professional musicians. Older Dreamers who want to further their musical interests can also participate in smaller and individual classes.
Drama and Dance Literacy: Through a long-standing relationship with Lang College at the New School, Dreamers are lead in drama and dance literacy lessons by college students at the New School. These lessons provide an introduction to performance while also introducing Dreamers to college students, helping Dreamers to further visualize themselves as having college-potential.
Dreamer Service: IHDF-NY values giving back to the communities in which the Dreamers live. Along with participating in many of the fundraising walks in the city, volunteering at soup kitchens, and reading to younger children, Dreamers participate in the IHDF National Dreamer Service Day on MLK Day every January. Traditionally, the older cohorts plan a day of discussion, reflection, and community service in which all Dreamers in NYC participate.
National Dreamer Conference: Every summer Dreamers in Grade 7 through college from across the country gather on a college campus for three days and two nights of college preparation activities, leadership and life skills development and networking with other Dreamers. Being on a college campus with new friends provides a realistic sample of college-life. This is a life-changing event for the Dreamers.
Field Trips: Dreamers are exposed to local resources such as museums, sporting events, gardens, musical events and theatre throughout their time with "I Have A Dream" - NY. Dreamers attend Broadway shows, concerts at Carnegie Hall, performances at Lincoln Center, and programming at the Museum of Natural History in NYC. They also travel to a variety of colleges for special events and tours.
College Success Program
From the beginning of their time with IHDF-NY, Dreamers are encouraged to look ahead and realize how today's actions can affect tomorrow's results. This is most true when preparing for college.
College Exploration and Enrollment: For low-income students, the prospect of college can be daunting. Few schools' guidance counselors have the resources to offer counseling, and a 2013 report from the Get Schooled Foundation said that there are few if any comprehensive online resources to help students initially search for schools that might be a good fit for them. Additionally, qualified applicants often overlook prestigious schools assuming their families cannot afford the tuition, not realizing that need-based financial aid packages could substantially cut costs. These factors lead students from low-income communities to either not consider college at all, or not apply to more competitive schools. IHDF-NY helps recognize these barriers and ensure that Dreamers are preparing academically and personally for the university experience through:
Individual Mentoring: The College Coach curriculum is a series of activities for 9-12th graders designed to utilize the support of their mentor/College Coach to prepare them and their families for the academic, personal, and social challenges of college, as well as help them with the initial college search and with navigating the college and financial aid application processes.
Group Activities: Our annual College Summit is held every winter for juniors in high school to begin to explore their interest in colleges and methods of college exploration, and begin realistic conversations about college life.
College Visits: Dreamers visit at least one college campus per year beginning as young as elementary school and increase frequency as they mature. Dreamers are introduced to a variety of career options during the "I Have A Dream" - NY College and Career Week during the NYC public school's winter and or spring break.
SAT Prep: High school aged Dreamers are required to attend SAT preparation courses, complete practice tests and are inundated with new vocabulary through fun and unexpected methods.
Based on research into programs within and outside of the "I Have A Dream" network, IHDF-NY has identified the following four College Success Goals as integral to the success of our Dreamer Scholars:
- College Persistence and Degree Attainment
- Career Exploration and Readiness
- Financial Literacy and Financial Aid
- Life Skills, Health, Cultural Awareness
With an eye toward developing independence and self-efficacy, IHDF-NY uses a variety of strategies to support Dreamer Scholars in the pursuit of these goals:
Program staff maintain strong levels of communication with all stakeholders including Dreamer Scholars, families, colleges, and other support student services (including Opportunity Programs) in order to track Dreamer progress and troubleshoot the challenges met while at college.
Dreamer Scholars communicate regularly with program staff during their semesters via in-person campus visits, video chat, telephone, and social media platforms.
During school recesses, Dreamer Scholars attend our Success Workshops, where they learn about topics relevant to college persistence and career exploration (i.e. study skills, time-management, internship acquisition, college writing, networking skills, etc)
Finally, IHDF-NY provides Dreamer Scholars with the opportunity to participate in internships that are directly correlated with their academic pursuits and career goals (see WISIP portal).
- Career Awareness and Employment Program
From the time of their initial enrollment as a participant in the "I Have A Dream" Foundation - NY Program, Dreamers are exposed to a variety of jobs and career paths. During the IHDF-NY College and Career Week, generally held during the students' mid-winter recess, Dreamers hear from professionals on career panels, explore their interests through interactive activities, and participate in Professional Days (informational sessions) and Job-Shadow Days and at a variety of local businesses and organizations.
During high school, a concerted effort is made to ensure that each Dreamer participates in meaningful work experiences. Dreamers are required to apply to the Summer Youth Employment Program to gain entry-level job experience. Subsequently, IHDF-NY looks to connect Dreamers to internship or job opportunities that are in line with their interests and/or expose them to new possibilities. Dreamers are also empowered to seek and secure internship and work opportunities on their own and are supported throughout their efforts. IHDF-NY staff assists Dreamers with creating resumes and improving communication skills to help Dreamers build the foundation for success in the workplace.
- Work Is Success Internship Program (WISIP)
The Work Is Success Internship Program connects Dreamer Scholars (our college students) with internship opportunities that are directly correlated with their academic pursuits and career goals, facilitating placements at some of New York's top small businesses, corporations, law and medical offices, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.
The main goals of WISIP are to provide Dreamer Scholars with an opportunity to:
- build and improve skills through professional training
- gain firsthand experience in the workplace and broaden industry knowledge
- create and expand professional and social networks
- promote college persistence, excellence, and graduation
To participate in WISIP, Dreamer Scholars complete a competitive application process that includes the submission of a resume and cover letter as well as an interview with a member of the IHDF-NY Junior Board. Qualifying Dreamers then interview with our partner sites and are matched with an internship opportunity. Before beginning their placement, Dreamers participate in the WISIP Academy, a series of work readiness trainings facilitated by IHDF-NY staff and our professional development partners. These trainings focus on skills and knowledge identified as critical to a successful performance in the 21st century workplace. Workshops include Character Development, Communication Skills, Time & Project Management, Financial Literacy, Digital Literacy, and Industry Outlook. Pre-placement training, combined with ongoing mentoring and support during the internship, helps to ensure a positive and productive experience for all stakeholders.
- Vocational Opportunities
IHDF-NY recognizes that college enrollment may not be the immediate choice for all of our Dreamers after earning their High School Diploma or High School Equivalency. Concurrent with continued mentoring regarding all post-secondary options (including gap years, service-learning, college, etc.), IHDF-NY encourages those Dreamers to pursue a trade or learn a skill that interests them in an effort to secure a job or career in a field where a college degree may not be necessary. Dreamers are offered financial assistance to attend an accredited trade or vocational program of their choice.