In congruence with our motto “Wisdom Through Education”, Chi Upsilon Sigma’s ® National Philanthropy is the “I Have A Dream” (IHDF) Foundation.
The foundation started as a promise by millionaire businessman Eugene Lang. Upon making a speech at his former elementary school, P.S. 121 in Harlem, NY, he promised to pay college tuition for every 6th grader that graduated from the school that year. Lang then appointed Johnny Rivera as program coordinator to help the operation by gaining support from local community-based organizations. In 1986, the “I Have A Dream” Foundation became a reality.
The “I Have A Dream” Foundation provides long-term support to help children from low-income communities achieve their full potential by promoting personal empowerment, high school graduation, post-secondary success, and financial support for post-secondary education. Not only has the foundation helped over 15,000 “Dreamers” in 27 states, Washington, D.C. and New Zealand, but it has also helped members of CUS reach their dreams of going to college.
Why the “I Have a Dream” Foundation Was Chosen
In 2000, Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority Inc. ® chose the “I Have a Dream” Foundation as its national philanthropy mainly because one of our members, Jessica Rosado, alumna of Long Island University – CW Post campus, was a Dreamer. Every year, we make an annual gift to the organization.
How IHAD changed my life... By Jessica Rosado
At my fifth grade graduation at C.S. 44 in the Bronx, the principal announced that she had a wonderful surprise for the graduating class. She then introduced a man by the name of Charles B. Benenson, who had graduated from our school decades before. She informed us that Mr. Benenson would be providing tuition assistance for the entire fifth grade graduating class. Everyone began to cheer and applaud. I too proceeded to clap even though I really didn’t grasp the capacity of his generosity, nor was I interested because I was too busy staring at my nice new graduation shoes.
Mr. Benenson was one of the sponsors for the I Have a Dream Foundation (IHDF). The IHDF foundation was founded in 1981 by a businessman named Eugene M. Lang who returned to the elementary school he had attended in East Harlem New York, 50 years earlier. He was invited to give the sixth grade graduating class words of motivation. However, on the way to the podium, the principal told Lang that three-quarters of the school’s students would probably never finish high school. That one statement had a profound impact on Mr. Lang. It prompted him to make a quick change in his speech. Lang then spoke to the graduating class about witnessing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. He then promised college tuition to every student who graduated from high school. Mr Lang realized that alone, he could not give the 61 students the support they needed. He hired a full time project director and enlisted the help of the community to provide services to the students. Since Mr. Lang’s generous commitment and unyielding desire to assist those in low-income communities, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation (IHDF) has grown to over 200 programs in 27 states, Washington D.C and New Zealand. It has developed these core beliefs:
For the following seven years after graduation, we were provided with tutoring, after-school programs, and trips all funded by IHDF. In addition to paying for college tuition, Mr. Benenson spontaneously decided to pay for a Catholic high- school education for anyone from the graduating class who wished to attend Parochial school. He wanted to make sure that we were given the best opportunities and support we needed to graduate from high school. The parents were responsible for paying only $10.00 a month. My mother was a single parent on public assistance raising 3 children. She did not have the resources to enhance my education the way she would have liked. However, the IHDF foundation provided us with a place to go after school, gave us the academic support we needed to succeed and exposed us to broadway plays, different colleges and mentorship. Not only did it enable children from my low-income community to attend college, I believe with every fiber of my being that it saved lives. The kids that would normally be roaming the streets after school, were now doing their homework, playing basketball and learning about computers.
I will forever hold Mr. Benenson and the “I Have a Dream” Foundation very near and dear to my heart. According to the Ihaveadream.org website, “In the United States today, less than 15% of children from low-income families will get a bachelor’s degree compared to 26% nationwide, and more than 50% in high-income communities.” I always had the desire to go to college and I am grateful that IHDF provided me with the financial and academic support to make that dream a reality.
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