My former Northwestern student Kelli Haywood has launched the Dream On Education Foundation. Dream On does terrific work in the community by engaging the kids and helping them grow and develop as individuals. The foundation’s focus is address three core issues that pervade the city:
- High-achieving low-income youth are falling through the cracks, struggling (academically, socially, and emotionally) significantly in the 9th grade, and underperforming in high school, college, and beyond.
- Nationally, “more students fail ninth grade than any other grade in high school and a disproportionate number of students who are held back in ninth grade subsequently drop out.”
- Studies show that students in low-income academic communities who successfully navigate grades 6-8 have a 75% chance of graduating from high school. Students who do not improve/thrive during this time period, become disengaged or have an unsuccessful experience during this critical transitional period.
Ultimately, Dream On’s mission is to prepare high-performing, low-income 6th-8th-grade students for the rigor of a high school and college curriculum and challenge them beyond their comfort level, which will enable them to maximize their potential, reach their dreams, and contribute positively to society.
Kelli has pursued her passion tirelessly with Dream On and has really built up an impressive base of support as she works on expanding her programs across the city.
On May 2, 2019, Dream On held its annual Soiree at the Fulton Market Warehouse in Chicago. A terrific venue, the event boasted the usual array of food and drinks, but had a completely different feel than many of the events that we attend. The good seemed to be coming from local groups and there were many community based entertainers.
The event was spotlighted by Karen Jordan from CBS Channel 2. She was a terrific emcee and dished out plenty of accolades around the room.
What was also impressive to me was the personal way that Kelli interacted with so many of the guests. This was not your typical fundraising event where the leader spoke to everyone from a podium. Kelli went through the crowd multiple times to make sure that she gave attention to everyone who was in attendance.
I am always impressed by people who can get a new concept off of the ground, especially when they demonstrate the passion, energy and perseverance necessary to overcome so many of the challenges that are innate in any start-up organization.
Congrats to Kelli on her accomplishments and it will be a lot of fun to follow her efforts over the next few years.