"I Have A Dream" Foundation to Co-Sponsor White House “Beating the Odds” Summit

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First Lady offers advice and support to students who faced difficult challenges to reach college

Boulder, Colorado Dreamer Marlen Ramirez will be participating in the "Beating the Odds" Summit with the First Lady.

Our Dreamers are not just beating the odds by going to college: they’re thriving, and they are returning to their communities to share their opportunities with others.

WASHINGTON, DC (July 19, 2016)—On Tuesday, July 19th, over 130 college-bound High School graduates from across the U.S. will join the First Lady for the annual Reach Higher “Beating the Odds” Summit. The event, co-sponsored by the “I Have A Dream” Foundation (IHDF) and other foundations, will bring together a diverse group of students from communities across the U.S. who all have one thing in common: they have overcome daunting odds on the path to college. The students come from varying backgrounds—many are first generation college students, and have overcome obstacles ranging from poverty, homelessness, immigration status, and learning disability. The participating students were selected through various college access organizations who are a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Reach Higher” initiative.

Aside from celebrating the accomplishments of these 130+ students, the summit will focus on college readiness with a panel discussion hosted by YouTube personality Tyler Oakley. The panel—including the First Lady, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr, a current college student, and musical artist Jidenna—will share their advice on finding academic support in college, forming strong networks at school, and how to attain a sense of “career fluency” to find opportunities in the future. Students will have the opportunity to network with other participants, who share a wide array of backgrounds and life experiences.

Two students (“Dreamers”) from the “I Have A Dream” Foundation will be a part of Tuesday’s summit. Marlen Ramirez, from IHDF’s program in Boulder, Colorado, will be the first in her family to go to college. She is excited to be heading to the University of Northern Colorado in the fall to study criminal justice. Marlen is an avid soccer player and hopes to continue playing in college. Chelsea Bueno, from IHDF’s Ravenswood program in New York City, grew up in public housing in Long Island City before moving to Jamaica, Queens where she attended George Washington Carver High School for the Sciences. After her move, Chelsea often commuted almost an hour to attend academic enrichment programs sponsored by IHDF. She has earned a full-ride scholarship to attend Manhattanville College. Chelsea has always been interested in public service as well as the medical professions, and is interested in pursuing a career as an Occupational Therapist.

“For Dreamers like Marlen and Chelsea, who have been in ‘I Have A Dream’ programs since elementary school, this summit is the culmination of years of individualized support and personal determination,” says Donna Lawrence, President & CEO of the National “I Have A Dream” Foundation. “For the millions of students living in poverty in the United States, ‘Beating the Odds’ describes the hard work they do every day to go to—and stay in—school, when the numbers are stacked against them. Our Dreamers are not just beating the odds by going to college: they’re thriving, and they are returning to their communities to share their opportunities with others.”

Events like this summit reinforce the mission of the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, which works to transform low-income communities by providing children with the social, academic, and financial support they need to thrive in school and life. For the 25 Million children in U.S. public schools living in poverty, the odds do not favor college graduation: only 9% will go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to 77% of their peers from high-income families. Through a long-term, comprehensive program of support from elementary school all the way through college, IHDF programs nearly triple the rate of college graduation.

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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 M. Lang, IHDF operates in 16 cities and has served over 17,000 Dreamers in over 200 programs.

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, with almost 70% enrolling in college. 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.

About Reach Higher:
The Reach Higher initiative is the First Lady's effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university. In today's economy, a high school diploma just isn't enough. Students have to reach higher, which is why the First Lady is working to rally the country around the President's "North Star" goal — that by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

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