IHAD Celebrates 25 Years

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In 1981, only 25% of students at PS 121 in New York City were expected to graduate or obtain GED degrees. Not willing to accept this fate, Eugene M. Lang, a former student at the school, stepped in, and started on a course that would transform the lives of at-risk students nationwide.

The “I Have a Dream� Foundation began with a spontaneous offer to provide financial support for college education to every PS 121 sixth-grade student who finished high school. Nearly 90% graduated – more than three times the expected average graduation rate of students from that neighborhood. Since that day, the Foundation has mentored more than 14,000 students from some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities.

In celebration, on Monday, April 24, the Foundation honored its founder Eugene M. Lang with a Lifetime Achievement Award at its 25th Anniversary Celebration Gala at The Rainbow Room in New York City. The Gala was hosted by Mike Wallace, co-editor and co-host of CBS’s 60 Minutes. Among the friends and special guests of the Foundation gathering for the momentous occasion was Donna Shalala, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and current president of the University of Miami, who will present the award to Lang.

“Gene’s extraordinary offer 25 years ago has had a ripple effect that not only benefits the students, but their communities and generations to come,� said Marina Winton, President and CEO of the “I Have a Dream� Foundation. “There are few people as deserving of a lifetime achievement award.�

The Foundation’s mission is to motivate and empower children, referred to as “Dreamers,� from low-income communities to reach their education and career goals by providing a long-term program, 12-15 years, of mentoring, tutoring and enrichment as well as tuition assistance for higher education. Not only inspiring the formation of local “I Have a Dream� Projects across the country, the “I Have a Dream� Program serves as the inspiration to federal, state and municipal legislation and other philanthropic ventures that have thus served millions of American children.

Also in attendance will be Dreamer Zulma Hernandez, who was one of the original PS 121 students, and other Dreamers who will offer their thoughts on the opportunities made possible by Lang’s inspiration and the Foundation’s support over the years.

“Everyday we strive to live up to Gene’s dream of ensuring that students graduate from high school and are ready for college, vocational school or employment,� added Winton.

Research has shown that the “I Have a Dream� Program has had a measurable and dramatic effect on children in terms of higher graduation rates and college attendance, improved school attendance and academic performance, among other areas.

During the evening, the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation will be presented with the Visionary Award, and MassMutual Financial Group will be presented with the Corporate Award for its LifeBridgesm free life insurance program.
In addition to Shalala, Honorary Chairs for the event include: Mario Cuomo, former Governor of New York; Bob Kerrey, President of The New School; Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg; Rep. Charles B. Rangel from New York; and Harris Wofford, former Chair of America’s Promise and AmeriCorps.

The Celebration Gala will follow the two-day 25th Anniversary National Conference at the renowned Teachers College at Columbia University. Attended by Sponsors, Local Executive Directors, Project Coordinators and staff, the conference will focus on the dire need to help today’s youth by providing educational opportunities and the role of “I Have a Dream�model in that mission.

Speaking Truth To Empower.� To contact The Black Star News write editor@blackstarnews.com or call (212) 481-7745. Subscribe to this newspaper and advertise to build power.

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