I Have a Dream

An Effective Practice


I Have a Dream® (IHAD) was established in 1981 by Eugene Lang, a successful businessman and philanthropist. He "adopted" the sixth-grade students at Public School 121 in East Harlem, New York, promising the students tuition assistance for college if they graduated from high school. In addition, he offered the students support services in school to help them graduate from high school. Other groups and individuals have followed Lang's model, and there are now about 180 projects in 27 states.

IHAD, now a national foundation located in New York, sets parameters for local projects but does not dictate how they operate or organize. The program is designed to serve children from low-income communities. Program sponsors can adopt either an entire grade level from an elementary school or an entire age group from a public housing development. Typically, sponsors will adopt a group of children (60 to 80 kids) in the second or third grade and support them through high school graduation by funding tutoring, mentoring, and other academic, cultural and recreational support activities. Upon high school graduation, students are provided financial assistance for pursuing higher education.

Goal / Mission

The "I Have a Dream"® Program helps children from low-income areas reach their education and career goals by providing a long-term program of mentoring, tutoring, and enrichment with an assured opportunity for higher education.

Results / Accomplishments

More than 13,000 students have been served since the program's inception. Over a dozen research studies and evaluations have been conducted of local "I Have A Dream"® Programs since 1991. Arete Corporation, a New York City-based consulting firm, prepared a summary of research in 2003 of eight of these studies. Taken as a whole, this body of research shows that "I Have a Dream"® has a dramatic impact on helping children succeed. Findings include:

Academic Performance-Grades And Test Scores: Three studies found significant improvements in grades and/or test scores among Dreamers.

School Attendance: "I Have a Dream"® has had positive effects on students' attendance records.

Teen Mothers: "I Have a Dream"® made an impressive impact on teenaged mothers.

Educational Aspirations: In virtually every Project, both quantitative and qualitative
measures of Dreamers' aspirations show higher aspirations and more positive attitudes about school, life, and the future.

Peer Groups And Peer Pressure: Three studies offered important perspectives on teens' relationships with their peers. All concluded that Dreamers were better able to resist negative peer pressure, to support one another, and to serve as role models.

Delinquency: The Portland study found a dramatic drop in the number of times male Dreamers were referred to the juvenile justice system.

Cost Benefit: The Portland study examined the costs and benefits to society of Dreamers' improved life outlooks, estimating that if only eight Dreamers graduate from high school who otherwise would not, the economic benefits of their increased earnings would equal or exceed the million-dollar cost of the Project.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Marina W. Winton
"I Have a Dream"® Foundation
330 Seventh Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, New York 10001
(212) 293-5480, Ext. 21
Education / Student Performance K-12
Social Environment / Volunteerism & Charitable Donations
"I Have a Dream" Foundation
Promising Practices Network
Date of publication
Aug 2002
Date of implementation
Target Audience