Since 1981, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation has been changing the lives of low-income “Dreamers” across the nation. And, here in Idaho, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation has been breaking the cycle of socio-economic inequality since 2012. Now, we’re excited for the Wood River Valley to become even more involved. Specifically, we’re hoping to actively contribute at the airport. Now, if you’re wondering how the airport plans to get involved in this wonderful program, we’ll explain! It all starts with education for the Dreamers.

The premise of the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, nationally, is to help increase the graduation rates amongst children. In Idaho, the mission of this foundation is to break the cycle of socio-economic inequality, by offering equal opportunity to our students through academic support, social enrichment, activities, and scholarships.

If you’re unfamiliar with the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, it is a national organization with nearly 200 programs in 16 affiliate states. Here in Idaho, the Wood River Valley program is one of (if not the) newest programs to join! It was started in 2012, with the help of Ken Willis. When the program was founded, Ken approached John Blackman to assist. In order to get started, their burgeoning program had a few requirements: one, it needed to include a Title I school, and two, it required a high percentage of students needing free (or reduced) lunch. However, it was a difficult selection. At the time, there were four Title I schools in the Wood River Valley; the largest of which was in Woodside. Ultimately, John and Ken selected a third grade class at Alturas elementary. All students — 49 third graders — were dual immersion and all bilingual.

The “adopted” students are now eighth graders at Wood River middle school. Of the 49 that started, three students moved, one communicates from Twin Falls, one is back in Mexico with all of his family, and unfortunately, one of the children didn’t stay in touch upon leaving. However, the other 46 are still local. Of the 49 that the program started with, 72% will be first time high school graduates in their family — an incredible feat.

All kids involved in the program must meet the criteria from year to year; meaning they attend so many after school program hours, complete the mandatory hours for community service as well as other varied tasks based on the year.. Currently, “I Have a Dream” Foundation has 12 kids on the Honor Roll with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and there are additional 29 students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher! Social enrichment activities are a large part of what keeps the kids involved, and recently, “I Have a Dream” Foundation Idaho took eight of their kids to the “Know Your Government” conference. The kids are also given Mountain Rides passes to help them get up and down the Valley, furthering their involvement with the community.

The group is also involved in ropes courses at CSI (great for team building!) and campus visits at the University of Idaho. Additionally, they are all eligible for 4-H scholarships. In terms of philanthropy, students are required to do 10 hours of community service each year, a part of the “Circle of Philanthropy” for the community. It’s an opportunity for them to give back to those who have given to them.

Through the “I Have A Dream” Foundation Idaho, there are numerous mentors and educators. And, this is where we (the airport) come into play. There are many jobs offered in the Valley, and many of them are at the airport! This is an opportunity for Chris and the airport team to mentor, educate, and draw awareness to the jobs here at our facility. These jobs include pilots, airlines, aircraft mechanics, Fixed Based Operations, airport management, and more.

Therefore, part of our mission at the airport is to educate these Dreamers on the job opportunities in aviation (and beyond). We are excited to join forces with the “I Have A Dream” Foundation — we believe in the power of this organization, and it is our hope to inspire children to never give up on their dreams.