For the first time last Thursday, I was able to experience the family that is the I Have a Dream Foundation Los Angeles.
As we stepped out of the car and walked across the basketball courts at 99th Street Elementary School, we were greeted by shouts of “Miss Katy! Miss Katy!” Two little girls ran up to us and started talking about their field trip to USC. Katy Garretson, the executive director of IHADLA, visits the students at our schools as often as she can.
Katy and I walked upstairs into a classroom, and, again, Katy was instantly bombarded with hugs from children all trying to talk to her and tell her stories. They were so excited. One boy was so excited that he went to hug me. When he realized he didn’t know me, he stopped and enthusiastically waved at me instead. Before our unexpected arrival, the kids had all been working on homework in the IHADLA after-school program. Once the program director assured all the Dreamers that they could talk to Miss Katy later, they sat down and started working again.I pulled up a tiny chair at a table of six Dreamers to help with their homework. Each student was working hard and having me check their work. One Dreamer named Gladis was working on prefixes and wanted to know if it was ‘replant’ or ‘unplant.’ I can’t lie. My mind definitely raced a little bit at this third grade worksheet. Don’t those both make sense? Now that I’m writing this and spell check has underlined ‘unplant,’ I can rest easy, knowing I gave her the sound advice. Gladis was extremely sweet, talkative, and dedicated to her homework. She started talking to me as soon as I sat down and when I told her to sound out a word, she would sound it out with zeal.I was so impressed by the kids’ hard work. Everyone was reading or working on something. They only lost focus when I distracted them by telling them I went to USC, to which they responded with victory signs and a “Fight On.” Clearly, they had enjoyed their trip!
Later, we met up with Mitch Glickman, a conductor in the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra, and Danielle Ondarza, a French horn player from the same orchestra. They came as part of IHADLA’s Dream Speakers Series, which allows students to hear different speakers talk about their careers and education. Mitch and Danielle taught the kids how to be conductors, how to be percussionists, and how to blow into a French horn. Screams of excitement broke out when Danielle played music from Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Pink Panther. The Dreamers had lots of questions. They wanted to know about how to study music in college, and one Dreamer asked how to get a career in playing guitar.
It was so awesome to see these kids dreaming big and thinking about all the possibilities available to them. I was able to see how truly blessed I am to be interning here and finally see why we call our students, Dreamers. Seeing the smiles when the kids saw Katy and hearing all the ways the students are dreaming of life after school reminded me of why all the work at IHADLA is worth it.
Seeing these students achieve their dreams is our dream, and we won’t stop chasing it.