Looking Back at Our Year: DreamWakers Top 17 of 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, the DreamWakers team is taking time to reflect on some of the exciting accomplishments we achieved over the course of this year. We work hard — both during and outside of the regular school year — to make sure students in some of our country’s most underserved communities have an opportunity to dream big about their future. We’re thrilled to have met that goal during these past 365 days with innovative new programs, powerful new partnerships, and a whole lot more. Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, here are a few of the milestones we’ll be celebrating this holiday season.

  1. Doubled our impact by serving TWICE as many students as in 2016

This year we doubled our impact compared to 2016. In 2017, we increased our national reach by connecting with classrooms in new states like Missouri, Hawaii, Kansas, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Michigan. Additionally, 100% of the classrooms we served were at schools were at least 50% of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunch. Furthermore, we engaged students from all geographic areas of our country: urban (53%), rural (35%), and suburban (12%). We can’t wait to TRIPLE our impact and wake more dreams than ever before in 2018.

2. Kicked off #WhiteHouseWednesdays with The White House Historical Association

Each Wednesday throughout the spring and fall semesters, we brought outstanding leaders in careers connected to the White House into Social Studies classrooms across the country. The #WhiteHouseWednesdays series was designed to expose students around the country to the unique careers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from political correspondents to presidential schedulers. Speakers from the series included Stewart McLaurin, President of the White House Historical Association; Yohannes Abraham, former Senior Advisor to the National Economic Council; Gregory Lorjuste, Director of Scheduling for President Barack Obama; Anita McBride, former Assistant to President George W. Bush.

3. Broadened horizons by serving as a SPRINGBOARD for new career exploration

Each flashchat in 2017 served as a springboard for further learning about future academic and career opportunities. For example, over 87% of the students that we served this past year had never met someone in the field or profession of their DreamSpeaker. In fact, 68% of our students had not previously met a real-world professional from outside of their city. By tapping into the power of free technology, DreamWakers empowered teachers broaden their students’ horizons by exposing them to new industries that exist both within and outside of their hometown.

4. Soared above & beyond with new #DreamPartner JetBlue

This year we joined forces with JetBlue to take learning to the skies! JetBlue brought a DreamWakers classroom on a tour of their hangar at JFK airport in New York City, giving students 584 miles away in Bluefield, VA the opportunity to see what goes on behind-the-scenes of one of the world’s biggest airlines. JetBlue technicians generously volunteered their time to connect with students and tell them everything there is to know about air travel, real-world STEM careers, and the training necessary to land such a job. Additionally, this past October, JetBlue generously donated round-trip flights to each of our DreamTeachers and award winners so that they could be honored in person at our Fall Fundraiser in NYC. We are so grateful to the team at JetBlue for helping to make all of this possible and showing our students that the sky’s the limit when it comes to their career dreams.

5. Facilitated a field trip from Virginia to the Big Apple

This spring, a classroom of Virginia’s brightest scholars visited NYC to connect in person with L’Oréal USA professionals they had previously only met during an online DreamWakers’ flashchat. As part of the DreamWakers’ International Women’s Day Partnership with L’Oréal USA, Ms. Valencia Angles’ classroom virtually spoke with Jessica Hauff, Vice President of Digital Marketing. The L’Oréal executive was so impressed by the students’ confidence and eagerness to learn that she invited them to come visit their offices at Hudson Yards in New York City. In June the students took a nine hour bus trip from southwest Virginia and not only got to meet inspiring L’Oréal USA professionals in person, they also got to take a tour of the DreamWakers HQ and enjoy seeing the sights of the Big Apple. The entire experience was a key reminder that there is incredible power and opportunity in creating new connections — even virtual ones.

6. Earned Guidestar Platinum Participant status

In 2017 we were honored to receive a Platinum rating from Guidestar, an information service specializing in reporting on over 2.5 million U.S. nonprofit organizations. With this Platinum status, we’re now able to provide our supporters with the most accurate and up-to-date information on our progress and impact. For example, did you know that 100% of our speakers want to host another flashchat and that 96% of our classrooms continue talking about their chat experience in the days following their conversation? Learn more about these statistics and other important metrics on Guidestar.

7. Expanded our #DreamTeacher Fellowship Program

Due to the incredible success of our Spring Fellowship Program, we invited six new teachers to join our growing list of leaders in education. Selected from across the country, these teachers go above and beyond to serve their students, harness technology in the classroom, and connect classroom learning to real-world careers. Congratulations to our 2017 DreamTeacher Fellows:

  • Joel Bunn: Magna Vista High School, Ridgeway, VA
  • Lauren Gunnell-Beck: Central Davidson High School, Lexington, NC
  • Sheila Ingram: Tazewell Middle School, Tazewell, VA
  • Chelsea York: KIPP STAR College Prep, Harlem, NY
  • Valencia Angles: Graham Area Schools, Bluefield, VA
  • Tiffany Rivera: Acero Marquez School, Chicago, IL
  • Joy Delgallego: Naranca Elementary, El Cajon, CA
  • Heather Shotke: Muscatel Middle School, Rosemead, CA
  • Adam Kohler: KIPP Central City Academy, New Orleans, LA
  • Emily Myers: KIPP Central City Academy, New Orleans, LA

8. Increased international perspectives through partnership with The State Department Office of Public Engagement

This year we increased students’ international perspective by connecting classrooms to speakers across the globe through our partnership with The State Department Office of Public Engagement. This series enabled us to bring professionals like Daniel Mehring, a Foreign Service Officer based in Baghdad, Iraq, into a middle school Civics classroom in Tazewell County, VA. We also connected Sunshine Ison, a Cultural and Educational Affairs Officer based in Lima, Peru, to students more than 3,000 miles away in Independence, KY (Ms. Ison’s home state!). By creating these authentic, relatable connections between students and leaders working in public service around the world, we hope to help increase their understanding of the role the United States government plays in the international arena and highlight the wide array of career paths available within the federal government.

9. Celebrated when DreamSpeaker was invited to deliver commencement address to DreamStudents in Harlem

In May, the eighth grade class at KIPP STAR Prep Academy in Harlem, New York invited DreamWakers Speaker of the Year Maurice “Moe” Owens to deliver the keynote addres at the school’s commencement ceremony. Moe, who had previously only connected virtually with the students, didn’t hesitate to adjust his travel plans to meet this group of scholars, and DreamTeacher Fellow Chelsea York, in person. At their graduation ceremony, he shared about his journey from the Bronx to the White House with the students, staff, and family members in attendance, inspiring the graduating class to follow their dreams as they continue through school.

10. Developed new DreamWakers learning games and videos

With the assistance of our Education Adviser Sharon Waskow, we created a new subject-based series of lesson plans, classroom resources, and videos for our DreamTeachers. The goal of these learning tools is to provide students with engaging resources and new tools so that they can continue learning from their DreamWakers flashchat experience beyond the 45-minute virtual connection. Check out these and other new resources on our website — the DreamTheme Wheel can’t be missed!

11. Commenced 50 Flashchat Commonwealth Career Series with the Virginia College Advising Corps

DreamWakers partnered with the Virginia College Advising Corps (VCAC) to help pursue our joint mission of enhancing students’ interests in various career options while simultaneously preparing them for undergraduate college studies. From January to June 2017, DreamWakers hosted 50 flashchats in VCAC classrooms! The partnership helped to make important college-preparation resources available to thousands of high school students in Virginia. Learn more in this article.

12. Celebrated African American & Hispanic leaders in “I Have a Dream” Black History Month Series with Ron Brown Scholars Program and National Hispanic Heritage Month Series with Techqueria

This year we celebrated Black History Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month in partnership with the incredible educational organizations Ron Brown Scholars Program and Techqueria. Connecting classrooms with inspiring leaders of African American and Hispanic descent during these special months is an essential part of our year-long mission, because at DreamWakers, we believe that our country’s diverse student body can’t BE what they can’t SEE.

13. Expanded our DreamSpeaker Network, welcoming a diverse new cohort of professional role models into our volunteer network

We are always excited to welcome new professionals into our DreamSpeaker network to virtually volunteer in our classrooms. Our speakers come from diverse backgrounds: 50% white, 50% minority, 34% first and second generation immigrants (compared to national average of 20%), and 31% first generation college graduates (compared to national average 30%).

This year we were honored to add dozens of speakers to our roster, including the below leaders.

  • Aditi Hardikar: former liaison to the LGBTQ and Asian-American & Pacific Islander communities in the Obama Administration;
  • Karlie Kloss: internationally renowned supermodel and founder of KodewithKlossy;
  • Leah Wyar: Executive Beauty Director, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazines;
  • Nick Bayer: CEO and Founder of Saxby’s Coffee;
  • Richard Garriott de Cayuex: video game developer and first civilian to travel to the International Space Station.

Check out this 2017 Highlights Video to see a few flashchat moments for yourself!

14. Inspired new confidence in Dream Students

A wide segment of America’s youth lacks consistent exposure to career opportunities and dynamic professionals. We focus on serving students from low-income families because research shows that their opportunities to interact with professional role models are far fewer as compared to their more affluent peers. After hosting just one DreamWakers flashchat, 87% of students reported feeling more confident in themselves to speak publicly in front of their classmates and their Dream Speaker.

15. Honored 2017 Teacher, Student, Speaker, and Volunteer of the Year Winners

Each and every day we have the unique privilege of working with extraordinary individuals who demonstrate a commitment to the betterment of our country’s education system and the world in which our students live. Every year we like to take a moment to recognize individuals who go above and beyond to inspire the next generation and create opportunity where it lacks. This year at our Second Annual Fall Fundraiser in New York City, we honored Valencia Angles, Brayden Surface, Maurice Owens, and Sharon Waskow as our respective Teacher, Student, Speaker, and Volunteer of the Year. Their individual contributions to our classrooms have had an immeasurable impact on our organization as a whole. Learn more about our 2017 award winners and their work here.

16. Launched new website

This summer we launched our new and improved DreamWakers website! Students and teachers now have easy access to our learning tools and lesson plans, supporters can stay up to date on our latest work, and educators can easily sign up to bring an inspiring professional into classroom — all in one user-friendly space.

17. Welcomed A New Cohort of DreamWakers Advisory Council Members

This year we welcomed new members to the DreamWakers Advisory Council! The council is made up of a select group of young professionals from across the country who are passionate about leveraging technology to enhance opportunities for under-resourced youth. Each member utilizes their unique skills to further our mission, serving as ambassadors in their respective industries and communities. We have enjoyed working with and learning from these extraordinary professionals throughout the school year and look forward to our continued collaboration in the new year.

Our 2017–2018 Advisory Council Members include

  • Alison Dooley: Product Operations Manager, Google
  • Dana Laurens: Senior Associate for Policy & Advocacy, Education Reform Now
  • Diarrha N’Diaye: Social Media Strategist, L’Oréal Paris
  • Eric Schulze: Senior Scientist, Memphis Meats
  • Ester Barbuto: Business Strategy Manager, Windows NEXT
  • Felix Addison: COO/VP, WhoseYourLandlord
  • Gaurav Ahuja: Growth Equity Investor, TA Associates
  • Huong Doan Sniezek: Health & Wellness Entrepreneur
  • Jili Hume: Project Manager, Google for Education
  • Lilibeth Gangas: Chief Tech Community Officer, Kapor Center for Social Impact
  • Mitch Kochanski: Consultant, the Bridgespan Group
  • Summer Ash: Director of Outreach, Department of Astronomy, Columbia University

With just days left in 2017, we hope you’ll make every minute count and make a tax-deductibe donation right now to help us reach our New Years goal of bringing DreamWakers to three times as many classrooms in 2018. Your generous contribution will help us inspire even more students in America’s under-resourced schools to dream BIG dreams about their futures.

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