“I Have A Dream” Foundation Celebrates 35th Anniversary Gala

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Hosted by Bill Whitaker of 60 Minutes, honorees include Former NFL Player Justin Tuck, U.S. Diplomat Juan Martinez, CBS Corporation, and members of Eugene M. Lang’s Family

The "I Have A Dream" Foundation Annual Gala is an opportunity to recognize education advocates who are continuing the legacy Mr. Lang started 35 years ago--breaking the cycle of poverty for thousands of families across the country.

On Thursday, June 9th, the “I Have A Dream” Foundation will celebrate its 35th Anniversary with its annual “Spirit of the Dream” Gala at The Pierre Hotel in New York City. This year’s honorees are: Philanthropists and education advocates Lauran & Justin Tuck, Founders of Tuck’s R.U.S.H. (Read, Understand, Succeed, and Hope) for Literacy; U.S. Diplomat and member of the original 1981 “I Have A Dream” class Juan Martinez, Esq.; and the and the CBS Corporation, which catapulted the Foundation into the national spotlight with a 60 Minutes profile in 1986 and has continued to propel awareness of the organization through the “CBS Cares” public service campaign, which has been seen by more than 175 million viewers. Tying back to the historic 1986 broadcast, the night will be hosted by Bill Whitaker of 60 Minutes.

The “I Have A Dream” Foundation began in 1981 when businessman Eugene M. Lang returned to the elementary school he had attended 50 years earlier, P.S. 121 in East Harlem, to address the graduating sixth grade class. He intended to tell the students, "work hard and you'll succeed." But on the way to the podium, the school principal informed Mr. Lang that three-quarters of the school's students would probably never even finish high school, inspiring Mr. Lang to make an impromptu change to his speech: he promised college tuition to every sixth grader who stayed in high school and graduated. Of the 54 original students who stayed in the area, 90% graduated from high school, at a time when high school dropout rates in New York City schools were as high as 52%.

Eugene M. Lang’s promise in 1981 went on to become the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, which has served over 17,000 students, called “Dreamers,” providing a comprehensive program of social, emotional, and educational support to students from low-income communities starting in elementary school and continuing with the same group of Dreamers all the way through college. The “I Have A Dream” Foundation is now active in 16 cities in the U.S. and New Zealand.

“The ‘I Have A Dream’ Foundation Annual Gala is an opportunity to recognize education advocates who are continuing the legacy Mr. Lang started 35 years ago--breaking the cycle of poverty for thousands of families across the country and making the dream of a college education a reality for all children,” said Donna A. Lawrence, President and CEO of the National “I Have A Dream” Foundation. “We are immensely proud of our honorees and to have renowned journalist Bill Whitaker as our host this year. We’re also grateful to the entire CBS family, for their ongoing support of our work to actively serve 10,000 Dreamers by the year 2020.”

Juan Martinez, this year’s “Spirit of the Dream” Award recipient, was the P.S. 121 class valedictorian on that day in 1981 that started it all. He now serves our country as a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State.

“I am living proof of what can happen when you invest in someone at an early age,” said Martinez. “Being a Dreamer has truly been one of the most positive experiences in my life. And the college education I received has been essential in helping me get to where I am today. I have no doubt that future groups of Dreamers will make good on the opportunity that this Foundation has opened up to them. Just as I did.”

Retired New York Giant Justin Tuck and his wife Lauran will receive the Eugene M. Lang Lifetime Achievement Award for their ongoing work to ensure that opportunities are available to low-income youth in New York, New Jersey, and Alabama. Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy began with a simple book distribution, then grew to include an essay contest and supporting materials, as well as grantmaking.

“It is an honor to be recognized with the 2016 Eugene M. Lang Lifetime Achievement Award,” shared Lauran & Justin Tuck. “Like many education rights advocates, we have been inspired by Mr. Lang’s vision for creating opportunities for young people through emphasizing the importance of a high quality education. We share in Mr. Lang’s vision for a more just society where a child’s potential is not limited by the circumstances they are born into.” Justin recently retired from the New York Giants after a successful 11-season career with the N.F.L.

“The ‘I Have A Dream’ Foundation’s Annual Gala is a great opportunity to shine light on improving education for young students in under-resourced public schools,” said Josie Thomas, ‎Executive Vice President, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, CBS Corporation. “We are pleased to accept this award from this wonderful organization and to have helped boost its mission of providing access and educational support to children in need.”

View an interactive map of 35 Years of the “I Have A Dream” Foundation’s history at ihaveadreamfoundation.org/35-years. Visit ihaveadreamfoundation.org to learn more.

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About “I Have A Dream” Foundation:
The “I Have A Dream” Foundation (IHDF) is a national non-profit organization focused on breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty through a comprehensive program of support that follows the same group of young people (“Dreamers”) from elementary school all the way through college. Founded 35 years ago through the vision of Eugene Lang, IHDF operates in 16 cities and has served over 17,000 Dreamers.

The numbers: 51% of students in U.S. public schools—over 25 Million children—are low-income, and only 9% of low-income students earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to 77% of their high-income peers. 90% of Dreamers complete high school, compared to 70% of their low-income peers, representing an additional $2.9 Billion in earnings over their lifetimes. Dreamers are nearly 3 times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than their low-income peers. Without this level of support, the cycle of poverty continues: 65% of children whose parents have no more than a high school diploma live in poverty. Now, 35 years after Eugene M. Lang’s life changing promise, Dreamers have children who are attending college themselves.

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