Eugene Lang founder I Have a Dream Foundation, whole child education approach
Founder Eugene Lang

Throughout the 35-year history of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, it has been known for its whole-child education approach. This approach is a legacy from the very first program.

New York businessman Eugene Lang founded the original “I Have a Dream” Foundation in 1981 when, prior to giving a speech at his middle school alma mater in Harlem, he was told that 75% of the students in attendance would drop out before graduating from high school. This figure so alarmed him that he changed his speech on the spot and offered to pay the college tuition of every student in the room who graduated. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the “I Have a Dream” movement began and eventually expanded to over 60 independently-run nonprofits in cities across the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. To date, the “I Have A Dream” Foundation has served over 17,000 sponsored students (“Dreamers”).

“I Have a Dream” Foundation – Los Angeles (IHADLA), the second affiliate, was founded in 1987 by the Whittier Family Foundations, which funded the early programs across Los Angeles. IHADLA has provided 30 years of service to over 1,000 underprivileged youth in Los Angeles County. In total, we have served over 7,200 people because, in addition to sponsoring Dreamers, we also help Dreamers’ siblings, parents, schools, and local communities. Additionally, we have inspired Dreamer alumni to come back and help their communities.

IHADLA 7,200 served with whole child approach

We provide the at-risk students we serve, whom we refer to as our “Dreamers,” with the academic, socio-emotional, and cultural resources and skills they need to graduate from high school and move to and through college. Our mission is to serve our Dreamers from third grade to high school and then to and through college to ensure that they can effectively navigate an educational pathway to an empowered future. Unique among education charities, we offer the only academic, socio-emotional, and family assistance program that is in school, after school, year round, and long term (10-plus years).

We have sponsored 20 programs to date. Current classes of Los Angeles Dreamers include: Program 14: 140 college juniors and seniors in Boyle Heights, Program 16 College-Check-In and Program 17: 120 11th and 12th grade students in Inglewood, Program 18: 70 eighth-grade Dreamers in Watts, and Program 19: our newest class of 65 fifth graders in Boyle Heights.